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From Medieval Latin incarceratus, past participle of incarcerare (to imprison), from Latin in (in) + carcer (a prison), meaning "put behind lines (bars)" – Latin root is of a lattice or grid. Related to cancel (cross out with lines) and chancel (area behind a lattice).

See also carcerate and cancer.



incarcerate (third-person singular simple present incarcerates, present participle incarcerating, simple past and past participle incarcerated)

  1. To lock away; to imprison, especially for breaking the law.
    • 2013 September 23, Masha Gessen, "Life in a Russian Prison," New York Times (retrieved 24 September 2013):
      Tolokonnikova has also been an effective public speaker even while incarcerated, but she has spoken out on politics and freedom in general rather than prisoners’ rights.
  2. To confine; to shut up or enclose; to hem in.

Usage notesEdit

As a Latinate term, somewhat formal, compared to imprison.


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