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[peen-l] /ˈpin l/
of, relating to, or involving punishment, as for crimes or offenses.
prescribing punishment:
penal laws.
constituting punishment:
He survived the years of penal hardship.
used as a place of confinement and punishment:
a penal colony.
subject to or incurring punishment:
a penal offense.
payable or forfeitable as a penalty:
a penal sum.
Origin of penal
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin poenālis, equivalent to poen(a) penalty (< Greek poinḗ fine) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
[pi-nal-i-tee] /pɪˈnæl ɪ ti/ (Show IPA),
penally, adverb
nonpenal, adjective
unpenal, adjective
unpenally, adverb
Can be confused
penal, penile. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for penal
  • The penal code is codified in a hardcover book that was kept at the ministry.
  • Last year the government gave the nod to a workshop that looked into changing the penal code.
  • Every week, on average, a new jail or prison is built to lock up more people in the world's largest penal system.
  • But it is quite something for a department to be accused of having a penal policy that is both too tough and too lenient.
  • Productive work is recognized and encouraged as a key element in every rehabilitative penal program.
  • Another incitement to the adoption of a new penal system is the awakening to the cruel ravages of consumption in the jails.
  • The isolation and severe climate well suited the penal needs of an authoritarian state ruled by a czar.
  • He's yelling and they're yelling and he's saying something about penal codes being violated.
  • No strained arguments about deterrence will account for the long and wide acceptance of penal killing.
  • The only white inmate in the penal system, he claims, he has been on trial for almost two years.
British Dictionary definitions for penal


of, relating to, constituting, or prescribing punishment
payable as a penalty: a penal sum
used or designated as a place of punishment: a penal institution
Derived Forms
penally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Late Latin poenālis concerning punishment, from poena penalty
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for penal

"pertaining to punishment," mid-15c., from Old French peinal (12c., Modern French pénal) and directly from Medieval Latin penalis, from Latin poenalis "pertaining to punishment," from poena "punishment," from Greek poine "blood-money, fine, penalty, punishment," from PIE *kwoina, from root *kwei- "to pay, atone, compensate" (cf. Greek time "price, worth, honor, esteem, respect," tinein "to pay a price, punish, take vengeance;" Sanskrit cinoti "observes, notes;" Avestan kaena "punishment, vengeance;" Old Church Slavonic cena "honor, price;" Lithuanian kaina "value, price").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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