Definition of penal in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpēn(ə)l/


1Relating to, used for, or prescribing the punishment of offenders under the legal system: the campaign for penal reform
More example sentences
  • It is far too late for us to start thinking about rehabilitation as the primary objective of our penal system once young offenders have been through this useless youth justice system, but that is exactly what we have done.
  • Institutional racism dogs educational, legal and penal systems on all continents.
  • Power can be conceptualized as control over resources that are desired by other people, and can be exerted in numerous ways including through legal and penal systems.
1.1(Of an act or offense) punishable by law.
Example sentences
  • None shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the same time when it was committed.
  • It is trite law that, in general, foreign penal acts of a confiscatory nature are not recognised in England.
  • But now it is a penal offence to talk about this genocide in the context of events that are funded externally or organised by foundations where ‘material interest’ could be at stake.



Pronunciation: /ˈpēn(ə)lē/
Example sentences
  • In consequence, international criminal rules aim to prevent or at least circumscribe such conduct by stigmatizing it as criminal and making it penally punishable.
  • He remains imperious with an eight-iron or less in his hands, but the driver has been his problem and yesterday he continued to struggle with it, steering a tee shot into penally thick rough on the left of the 483-yard 15th.
  • The Society met over the weekend to discuss how Ireland's motor business will deal with Governments which penally tax the industry.


Late Middle English: from Old French penal, from Latin poenalis, from poena 'pain, penalty'.

  • pain from Middle English:

    This goes back to Latin poena which originally meant ‘penalty’ and later came to mean ‘pain’, and is also the source of to pine (Old English) ‘to long for', but originally meaning ‘to suffer’; penal; and penalty [both LME]. Punish (Middle English) comes from the related verb punire. Pain in the neck dates from the 1920s; from this, a pain for an annoying person developed in the 1930s. Although the phrase no pain, no gain is associated with exercise classes from the 1980s, the two words have been associated since the 16th century and ‘No Pains, No Gains’ is the title of a 1648 poem by Robert Herrick.

Words that rhyme with penal

adrenal, officinal, renal, venal

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pe·nal

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