penitentiary early 15c., "place of punishment for offenses against the church," from M.L. penitentiaria, from fem. of penitentiarius (adj.) "of penance," from L. paenitentia "penitence" (see PENITENCE (Cf. penitence)). Meaning "house of correction" first found 1806 (originally an asylum for prostitutes). Slang shortening pen is attested from 1884.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.


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  • penitentiary — pen·i·ten·tia·ry /ˌpe nə ten chə rē/ n pl ries: a state or federal prison for the punishment and reformation of convicted felons compare house of correction, house of detention, jail …   Law dictionary

  • Penitentiary — Pen i*ten tia*ry, a. [Cf. F. p[ e]nitentiaire.] 1. Relating to penance, or to the rules and measures of penance. A penitentiary tax. Abp. Bramhall. [1913 Webster] 2. Expressive of penitence; as, a penitentiary letter. [1913 Webster] 3. Used for… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • penitentiary — [pen΄i ten′shə rē] adj. [ML penitentiarius, poenitentiarius (form and meaning infl. by assoc. with L poena: see PENAL) < L paenitentia < paenitens,PENITENT] 1. of or for penance 2. used in punishing, disciplining, and reforming 3. making… …   English World dictionary

  • Penitentiary — may refer to: * Apostolic Penitentiary, a tribunal of mercy, responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Roman Catholic Church * Prison or penitentiary, a correctional facility …   Wikipedia

  • Penitentiary — Pen i*ten tia*ry, n.; pl. {Penitentiaries}. [Cf. F. p[ e]nitencier. See {Penitent}.] 1. One who prescribes the rules and measures of penance. [Obs.] Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. One who does penance. [Obs.] Hammond. [1913 Webster] 3. A small building …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Penitentiary — (engl., spr. ténnschĕri), Bußanstalt, Gefängnis …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Penitentiary 2 — Penitentiary 2 : le défit du tigre est un film américain sorti en 1982. Distribution Leon Isaac Kennedy : Too Sweet Gerald Berns : Serenghetti Peggy Blow : Roscoe Mister T. : Lui même Portail du cinéma américain …   Wikipédia en Français

  • penitentiary — [n] jail big house*, campus, can*, college, cooler*, correctional institution, inside*, joint*, lockup*, pen*, penal institution, prison, reformatory, slammer*, stockade; concepts 439,449,516 …   New thesaurus

  • penitentiary — ► NOUN (pl. penitentiaries) 1) (in North America) a prison for people convicted of serious crimes. 2) (in the Roman Catholic Church) a priest appointed to administer penance …   English terms dictionary

  • penitentiary — UK [ˌpenɪˈtenʃərɪ] / US noun [countable] Word forms penitentiary : singular penitentiary plural penitentiaries a prison for people who have committed serious crimes a state/federal penitentiary …   English dictionary

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