Definition of jail in English:


(British gaol)


  • A place for the confinement of people accused or convicted of a crime.

    ‘he served 15 months in jail’
    as modifier ‘a jail sentence’
    • ‘David Brown says the Royal Commission helped end the violence against prisoners which existed in some jails.’
    • ‘MSPs and prison officers say Fairweather's findings show that Scotland's jails are tinderboxes.’
    • ‘Last year the number of inmates in the nation's prisons and jails reached nearly 1,932,000, a record number.’
    • ‘It has also raised the ire of prison officers who said drugs were not acceptable outside jails and should not be tolerated inside either.’
    • ‘It runs 56 correctional institutions and detention centres, including four Australian gaols.’
    • ‘Kerik reduced crime in the city's jails by 95 per cent and ensured crime rates continued to decline.’
    • ‘At the association's annual conference Mike Newell, right, called for reform to reduce the number of inmates entering jails.’
    • ‘It shows that prisoner discipline is the worst in any Scottish jail and that violence among inmates is rife.’
    • ‘Venter denied that a concept such as solitary confinement existed in South African jails.’
    • ‘He had been at this particular gaol for several months, and had watched her grow in all the lawless skills there were.’
    • ‘He put dissidents, or those suspected of a scintilla of disloyalty, into stinking jails which were often death centres.’
    • ‘Bulgaria's overcrowded jails are more likely to serve as universities of crime than places of rehabilitation.’
    • ‘The people who ran the men's home would bargain with judges to get convicts who were drug addicts out of the jails and into the home.’
    • ‘At my hearing, I was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment in a maximum security jail.’
    • ‘Ten thousand people work in the jails of Kuzbass, jails packed with over thirty thousand inmates.’
    • ‘One of the comments most commonly made in this context was that Scotland was a more law-abiding country than England, as evidenced by the prison reformer John Howard having found fewer criminals in its gaols.’
    • ‘In February the United States reached a benchmark of 2 million individuals in its prisons and jails.’
    • ‘Others will call for gun control, for prosecuting minors as adults, for building new juvenile detention facilities and jails.’
    • ‘He was imprisoned in Gloucester gaol, despite the Lord Lieutenant's concerns that it was ‘not fit for a man of his quality.’’
    • ‘Other suggestions include all-women police stations, separate jails and lock-ups for women.’
    prison, penal institution, place of detention, lock-up, place of confinement, guardhouse, correctional facility, detention centre
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[WITH OBJECT]usually be jailed
  • Put (someone) in jail.

    ‘the driver was jailed for two years’
    • ‘Anti-drink drive campaigners today blasted magistrates for not jailing a mum who drove off with her young son after knocking back a bottle of wine.’
    • ‘He was jailed three times for repeatedly flouting a court order banning him from the estate.’
    • ‘What do people think about a Government that lets mafia criminals wander around free while jailing poor people for theft?’
    • ‘She said that she also feared her son would be taken into care if she were jailed for the offences.’
    • ‘Rob Ross, defending, said his client accepted he faced another custodial sentence, but urged the court to consider not jailing him.’
    • ‘Fining Allwn a paltry £2,000 instead of gaoling him, Judge Bertrand Richards observed: ‘The victim was guilty of a great deal of contributory negligence.’’
    • ‘There was one young lifer she remembers in particular who was jailed for murder.’
    • ‘He was jailed for life for wounding with intent to resist arrest but was cleared of attempted murder.’
    • ‘But they decided that, well for a start she's not likely to do it again, and that no useful purpose would be spent by jailing her.’
    • ‘He said he was jailed in January for shoplifting offences and stayed off drugs when he was released.’
    • ‘In 1980 he was jailed for three years for financing a plot to counterfeit gold coins.’
    • ‘At the age of 17, he was jailed for a year for affray after being involved in a riot.’
    • ‘As well as jailing him for three years, she also ordered he forfeit £165 he had with him when he was arrested, and that the heroin be destroyed.’
    • ‘As well as jailing him for eight weeks magistrates imposed another driving ban, which runs out at the same time as his current disqualification.’
    • ‘As well as jailing him for two years he ordered Adams' licence should be extended by three years when he is released.’
    • ‘In another case a man from Auxerre was jailed for keeping women captive in the basement of his home.’
    • ‘Judge Robert Moore asked Walker to sit down in the dock as he outlined his reasons for jailing him for five years.’
    • ‘New evidence proved the man he was jailed for kicking to death had never received a kick.’
    • ‘What is the point of jailing a dangerous man for life twice over and then allowing possible parole after only 5 ½ years?’
    • ‘Since Labour took office in 1997 an additional 6,000 have been gaoled, making the numbers imprisoned per head of population the highest in Europe after Portugal.’
    imprison, put in prison, send to prison, incarcerate, lock up, take into custody, put under lock and key, put away, intern, confine, detain, hold prisoner, hold captive, hold, put into detention, constrain, immure, put in chains, put in irons, clap in irons
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see prison


Middle English: based on Latin cavea (see cage). The word came into English in two forms, jaiole from Old French and gayole from Anglo-Norman French gaole (surviving in the spelling gaol), originally pronounced with a hard g, as in goat.