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early 12c., from Old French prisoun "captivity, imprisonment; prison; prisoner, captive" (11c., Modern French prison), altered (by influence of pris "taken;" see prize (n.2)) from earlier preson, from Vulgar Latin *presionem, from Latin prensionem (nominative prensio), shortening of prehensionem (nominative *prehensio) "a taking," noun of action from past participle stem of prehendere "to take" (see prehensile). "Captivity," hence by extension "a place for captives," the main modern sense.
"to imprison," early 14c., from prison (n.) or Old French prisoner (v.). Related: Prisoned; prisoning.
The first occasion on which we read of a prison is in the history of Joseph in Egypt. Then Potiphar, "Joseph's master, took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound" (Gen. 39:20-23). The Heb. word here used (sohar) means properly a round tower or fortress. It seems to have been a part of Potiphar's house, a place in which state prisoners were kept. The Mosaic law made no provision for imprisonment as a punishment. In the wilderness two persons were "put in ward" (Lev. 24:12; Num. 15:34), but it was only till the mind of God concerning them should be ascertained. Prisons and prisoners are mentioned in the book of Psalms (69:33; 79:11; 142:7). Samson was confined in a Philistine prison (Judg. 16:21, 25). In the subsequent history of Israel frequent references are made to prisons (1 Kings 22:27; 2 Kings 17:4; 25:27, 29; 2 Chr. 16:10; Isa. 42:7; Jer. 32:2). Prisons seem to have been common in New Testament times (Matt. 11:2; 25:36, 43). The apostles were put into the "common prison" at the instance of the Jewish council (Acts 5:18, 23; 8:3); and at Philippi Paul and Silas were thrust into the "inner prison" (16:24; comp. 4:3; 12:4, 5).