Last modified on 22 August 2014, at 19:03



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Selection of colored pencils.


From Anglo-Norman and Old French pincil (modern pinceau (paintbrush)), from Latin diminutive peniculus (brush), from noun penis (tail) + diminutive suffix -culus.

See also Old French pincel.



pencil (plural pencils)

  1. (obsolete) A paintbrush.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.0:
      But living art may not least part expresse, / Nor life-resembling pencill it can paynt [...].
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.17:
      why is it not lawfull for every man to pourtray himself with his pen, as it was for him to doe it with a pensell?
  2. Writing utensil that uses graphite (commonly referred to as lead). Regular pencils usually have a graphite shaft surrounded by wood. Also available in a mechanical version where the graphite length can be adjusted and sharpening is not needed.
  3. (geometry) A family of geometric objects with a common property, such as the set of lines that pass through a given point in a projective plane.
  4. (optics) An aggregate or collection of rays of light, especially when diverging from, or converging to, a point.
  5. (medicine, archaic) A small medicated bougie.

Derived termsEdit



pencil (third-person singular simple present pencils, present participle (UK) pencilling or (US) penciling, simple past and past participle (UK) pencilled or (US) penciled)

  1. to write something using a pencil
    I penciled (BrEn: pencilled) it in my notebook.
  2. To tentatively make a booking or appointment.
    I am very busy today but I can pencil you in at 3 p.m.

Derived termsEdit


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