Definition of prison in English:



  • A building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed or while awaiting trial:

    ‘he died in prison’
    ‘both men were sent to prison’
    • ‘He was currently in prison on remand pending trial for conspiracy to murder.’
    • ‘The prisoners are in prison because they are presumed to have been properly convicted.’
    • ‘Texas, the leader in prisons and capital punishment nationwide, had 534,260 on parole or probation.’
    • ‘We have all heard the stories about what prisons are like, I don't believe in prison being a totally horrific place, but I do think it has to be a bit more of a deterrent.’
    • ‘The number of people serving life sentences in British prisons, revealed by the Prison Reform Trust.’
    • ‘In rare cases a life sentence may mean life in prison, but such cases are very rare.’
    • ‘She had earlier spent several months in the prison on remand while awaiting trial.’
    • ‘In some cases the prison regime may be a contributory factor in a prisoner's decision to end his own life.’
    • ‘These homes are built for children whose parents are in prison serving life sentences!’
    • ‘I had been in local prisons, but then I landed up in prison far away from my own home.’
    • ‘Gansler added that Tyson should still be in prison for the crimes he has committed.’
    • ‘Relatively more mentally ill people end up in prisons as the prison population diminishes.’
    • ‘The significance of this duty to those detained in prison, not least where prisons are crowded and prisoners often dangerous, is obvious.’
    • ‘I was told that Mr Young is in prison in the USA awaiting trial on charges of fraud.’
    • ‘And it would not even be necessary for the suspect to commit a crime for them to face a prison sentence.’
    • ‘It can only review the cases of prisoners serving a prison sentence of eight years or more.’
    • ‘They are in prison surrounded by people, but prisons are the loneliest places on earth.’
    • ‘Prisoners in high security prisons are (given the risks they pose in general) routinely subject to strip searches.’
    • ‘People who have been in prison and who visit prisons will be with us.’
    • ‘It was at the forefront of opposing capital punishment and demanding prison reform.’
    jail, penal institution, place of detention, lock-up, place of confinement, guardhouse, detention centre
    young offender institution
    penitentiary, correctional facility, jailhouse, boot camp, stockade, house of correction
    the clink, the slammer, inside, stir, the jug, the big house, the brig, the glasshouse
    the nick
    the can, the pen, the cooler, the joint, the pokey, the slam, the skookum house, the calaboose, the hoosegow
    the chokey, bird, quod
    pound, roundhouse
    youth custody centre, approved school, borstal, bridewell
    View synonyms


[WITH OBJECT]literary
  • Imprison:

    ‘the young man was prisoned behind the doors’
    • ‘The soft gaze of his eyes vanished as they adjusted to the metal grates prisoning and protecting his eyeholes.’


Late Old English, from Old French prisun, from Latin prensio(n-), variant of prehensio(n-) laying hold of, from the verb prehendere.