• Pen


    • IPA: /pÉ›n/
      • pin-pen IPA: /pɪn/
    • Rhymes: -É›n
    • Homophones: pin pin-pen merger

    Origin 1

    From Middle English penne ("enclosure for animals"), from Old English penn ("enclosure, fold, pen") (in compounds), from Proto-Germanic *pennō, *pannijō ("pin, bolt, nail, tack"), from Proto-Indo-European *bend- ("pointed peg, nail, edge"). Akin to Old English pennian ("to close, lock, bolt") (in compounds onpennian ("to open")), Low German pennen ("to secure a door with a bolt"), Old English pinn ("peg, bolt"). More at pin.

    Sense “prison” originally figurative extension to enclosure for persons (1845), later influenced by penitentiary ("prison"), being analyzed as an abbreviation (1884).

    Online Etymology Dictionary

    Full definition of pen



    (plural pens)
    1. An enclosed area used to contain domesticated animals, especially sheep or cattle.There are two steers in the third pen.
    2. A place to confine a person; a prison cell.They caught him with a stolen horse, and he wound up in the pen again.
    3. (baseball) The bullpen.Two righties are up in the pen.


    1. (transitive) To enclose in a pen.
      • MiltonWatching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve.

    Origin 2

    Anglo-Norman penne, from Old French penne, from Latin penna ("feather"), from Proto-Indo-European *petna-, from *pet- ("to rush, fly") (from which petition). Proto-Indo-European base also root of *petra-, from which πτερόν (pteron, "wing") (whence pterodactyl), Sanskrit पत्रम् ("wing, feather"), Old Church Slavonic перо ("pen"), Old Norse fjöðr, Old English feðer (Modern English feather);

    note the /p/ → /f/ Germanic sound change.

    See feather and πέτομαι for more.



    (plural pens)
    1. A tool, originally made from a feather but now usually a small tubular instrument, containing ink used to write or make marks.He took notes with a pen.
    2. (figurative) A writer, or his style.He has a sharp pen.
      • Fullerthose learned pens
    3. A light pen.
    4. (zoology) The internal cartilage skeleton of a squid, shaped like a pen.
    5. (now rare, poetic, dialectal) A feather, especially one of the flight feathers of a bird, angel etc.
      • 1590, Edmund Spendser, The Faerie Queene, I.xi:And eke the pennes, that did his pineons bynd,
        Were like mayne-yards, with flying canuas lynd,
        With which whenas him list the ayre to beat ...
    6. (poetic) A wing.


    1. (transitive) To write (an article, a book, etc.).

    Origin 3

    Origin uncertain.



    (plural pens)
    1. A female swan.

    Origin 4

    Shortned form of penalty



    (plural pens)
    1. penalty


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