from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An instrument for writing or drawing with ink or similar fluid, especially:
  • n. A ballpoint pen.
  • n. A fountain pen.
  • n. A pen point.
  • n. A penholder and its pen point.
  • n. A quill.
  • n. An instrument for writing regarded as a means of expression: "Tyranny has no enemy so formidable as the pen” ( William Cobbett).
  • n. A writer or an author: a hired pen.
  • n. A style of writing: wrote plays with a witty pen.
  • n. Pinions.
  • n. The chitinous internal shell of a squid.
  • transitive v. To write or compose with or as if with a pen.
  • n. A fenced enclosure for animals.
  • n. The animals kept in such an enclosure.
  • n. Any of various enclosures, such as a bullpen or playpen, used for a variety of purposes.
  • n. A repair dock for submarines.
  • transitive v. To confine in or as if in a pen. See Synonyms at enclose.
  • n. A female swan.
  • n. Informal A penitentiary; a prison.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An enclosed area used to contain domesticated animals, especially sheep or cattle.
  • n. A place to confine a person; a prison cell.
  • n. The bullpen.
  • v. To enclose in a pen.
  • n. A tool, originally made from a feather but now usually a small tubular instrument, containing ink used to write or make marks.
  • n. The internal cartilage skeleton of a squid, shaped like a pen.
  • n. A feather, especially one of the flight feathers of a bird, angel etc.
  • v. To write (an article, a book, etc.).
  • n. A female swan.
  • n. penalty

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A feather.
  • n. A wing.
  • n. An instrument used for writing with ink, formerly made of a reed, or of the quill of a goose or other bird, but now also of other materials, as of steel, gold, etc. Also, originally, a stylus or other instrument for scratching or graving.
  • n. Fig.: A writer, or his style.
  • n. The internal shell of a squid.
  • n. A female swan; -- contrasted with cob, the male swan.
  • n. A small inclosure.
  • n. A penitentiary[6]; a prison.
  • transitive v. To write; to compose and commit to paper; to indite; to compose.
  • transitive v. To shut up, as in a pen or cage; to confine in a small inclosure or narrow space; to coop up, or shut in; to inclose.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To shut, inclose, or confine in or as in a pen or other narrow place; hem in; coop up; confine or restrain within very narrow limits: frequently with up.
  • To write; compose and commit to paper.
  • n. A small inclosure, as for cows, sheep, fowls, etc.; a fold; a sty; a coop.
  • n. Any inclousure resembling a fold or pen for animals.
  • n. In the fisheries, a movable receptacle on board ship where fish are put to be iced, etc.
  • n. A small country house in the mountains of Jamaica.
  • n. A feather, especially a large feather, of the wing or tail; a quill.
  • n. A quill, as of a goose or other large bird, cut to a point and split at the nib, used for writing; now, by extension, any instrument (usually of steel, gold, or other metal) of similar form, used for writing by means of a fluid ink.
  • n. One who uses a pen; a writer; a penman.
  • n. Style or quality of writing.
  • n. 5. A pipe; a conduit.
  • n. A female swan, the male being called a cob. Yarrell, British Birds.
  • n. In Cephalopoda, an internal homogeneous corneous or chitinous structure replacing the internal shell in certain decacerous cephalopods, such as the typical squids (Loliginidæ): also called gladius and calamary: distinguished from the corresponding sepiost or cuttlebone of the cuttles. See cut under calamary.
  • n. A weir or dam for penning up the water in a stream, canal, or river of any kind, to form a head.
  • n. A pen or pencil used to record the various degrees of pressure employed in writing. A metal spring, which holds the writing point of metal or graphite, plays against a rubber air-capsule contained in the penholder and connected by rubber tubing to the ordinary recording apparatus.
  • n. An abbreviation of peninsula.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. female swan
  • n. a writing implement with a point from which ink flows
  • n. a portable enclosure in which babies may be left to play
  • n. an enclosure for confining livestock
  • v. produce a literary work
  • n. a correctional institution for those convicted of major crimes


Middle English penne, from Old French, from Late Latin penna, from Latin, feather; see pet- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English, from Old English penn.
Origin unknown.
Short for penitentiary.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)
Origin uncertain. (Wiktionary)
Shortned form of penalty (Wiktionary)



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