Meaning of penal in English:


Pronunciation /ˈpiːn(ə)l/

See synonyms for penal

Translate penal into Spanish


  • 1Relating to, used for, or prescribing the punishment of offenders under the legal system.

    ‘the campaign for penal reform’
    • ‘penal institutions’
    • ‘It is far too late for us to start thinking about rehabilitation as the primary objective of our penal system once young offenders have been through this useless youth justice system, but that is exactly what we have done.’
    • ‘Institutional racism dogs educational, legal and penal systems on all continents.’
    • ‘Power can be conceptualized as control over resources that are desired by other people, and can be exerted in numerous ways including through legal and penal systems.’
    • ‘Concerned with the increase in violent crimes in the last decades of the twentieth century, many people are demanding a stricter police control and reforms in the penal system which would extend the time of incarceration.’
    • ‘The Judaeo-Christian tradition insists that the primary aim of any penal system is to reform and restore.’
    • ‘Humane and rational reform of the penal system is needed urgently.’
    • ‘Granted, prison is a place for punishment, but our penal system seems to be committing worse crimes than most of the people who are in jail.’
    • ‘More than 90 countries worldwide have abolished corporal punishment in schools and penal systems for youth.’
    • ‘A fabulously expensive and enormous penal system whose rapidly mounting social costs will be borne, ultimately, by every woman, man, and child in the country.’
    • ‘However, he said it was important that the Irish penal system still offered prisoners some hope of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.’
    • ‘Quite frankly, I am of the view that you will be able to better deal with those mental health issues in the provincial penal system as opposed to the federal penal system.’
    • ‘What sort of a penal system do we have when those who are supposed to confine the prisoners cannot or do not protect them?’
    • ‘Can you imagine, for example, the crisis that would be created within our penal system if lifers were never to have hope of changed circumstances?’
    • ‘Those people wanted punishment to be brought back into the penal system, but what has happened?’
    • ‘But a federal court turned the company down, noting that the rights of the public to information about the penal system do not include a promise of unfettered access.’
    • ‘In my judgment it is legitimate to have regard to public perception when considering the characteristics of a penal system.’
    • ‘I did my time (the best part of an hour) in a prison that was briefly the most notorious in the Scottish penal system.’
    • ‘Any transformation of the penal system must start with the redesign of prison buildings.’
    • ‘A spate of prison suicides has highlighted the terrible state of Britain's penal system.’
    • ‘In the same way that hospitals are the acute end of the healthcare system, prisons should be the acute end of the penal system.’
    disciplinary, punitive, corrective, correctional, retributive
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of an act or offence) punishable by law.
      ‘None shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the same time when it was committed.’
      • ‘It is trite law that, in general, foreign penal acts of a confiscatory nature are not recognised in England.’
      • ‘But now it is a penal offence to talk about this genocide in the context of events that are funded externally or organised by foundations where ‘material interest’ could be at stake.’
      • ‘Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.’
      • ‘Discipline in junior soccer is strict, and the fines for breaches are penal.’
      • ‘The power of the court to discharge an order giving permission to proceed, made on an application without notice to the other side, on the ground of non-disclosure, is a disciplinary, indeed penal, jurisdiction.’
      • ‘Several of the 20 readers who had e-mailed the newspaper expressed shock that oral sex remained an offence under the penal code in the modern city-state.’
      • ‘He then considered the question of whether it was necessary to establish an intention to injure where the conspiracy involved action that contravened penal law.’
      • ‘No international penal tribunal of general jurisdiction has been created.’
      • ‘It is said therefore that the power to punish or to impose consequences which are penal or punitive is an exclusively judicial one.’
      • ‘However, after that meeting the officials began to investigate the appellant's penal liability.’
      • ‘First, from the point of view of the advocate the jurisdiction is penal.’
      • ‘Under the Second Claimant's penal code an accused is entitled to free representation (at the cost of the Second Claimant) in such circumstances.’
      • ‘The Court drew a distinction between the retroactive effect of penal provisions and retroactive effect outside the criminal sphere.’
      • ‘Or the subject matter may call for a strict interpretation of the statutory language, as in penal legislation.’
      • ‘Thus the basic principle ought to be the harm principle: the reduction of harm to others is always a good reason in support of penal legislation.’
      • ‘The penal code does not criminalize such conduct, and would be clearly unconstitutional if it did.’
      • ‘The original interpretation of the Thirteenth Amendment was to prevent the state from enforcing labor contracts with penal sanctions.’
      • ‘In each case it can be noted that the classification certificate is concerned with the act of supply whereas the penal enforcement extends, in addition, to the act of offering to supply.’
      • ‘The new legislation could, said commentators, enshrine the most repressive aspects of martial law in the penal code.’
      disciplinary, punitive, corrective, correctional, retributive
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2(especially of taxation or interest rates) extremely severe.
      ‘avoid borrowing at penal rates of interest’
      • ‘He said the prescriptions - extreme fiscal austerity, soaring interest rates, penal levels of taxation and pain all round - compounded the social and economic misery already being felt.’
      • ‘It is this penal rate of interest that often prompts customers to default on their loans.’
      • ‘A brain drain blighted the Labour governments of the 1970s, as high earners were driven abroad by penal income-tax rates.’
      • ‘Rather than borrowing at penal commercial rates of interest, much cheaper standard mortgages became available and rental income was taken into consideration for assessing the size of any loan.’
      • ‘Banks have been given the freedom of formulating their own policy for charging penal interest rates with the approval of their boards.’
      • ‘Finally, both Council and the plaintiff point to those provisions which would require payment of interest on judgment debts at a penal rate.’
      • ‘He forced the latter to give a much better deal to borrowers, to pay their own legal fees and to reduce penal interest rates imposed in certain instances.’
      • ‘The shortage of investment product on the market is a concern, together with the penal rate of stamp duty levied by the government.’
      • ‘And today's restaurant workers get few of the benefits enjoyed by their counterparts of 20 years ago: no overtime, no penal rates, no travel, uniform or laundry allowances.’
      • ‘Nor do the arguably penal terms of the late delivery clause justify the penal interest clause.’
      • ‘It's hard to attract senior nurses to mental health because they miss out on penal rates.’
      • ‘We are going to take penal rates off the workers in that sector who work on public holidays.’
      • ‘That might nudge up to $43,000 with penal rates.’
      • ‘They approached the railways and said that they would like to go on a salary, and no longer wished to be paid penal rates for overtime, shift work, or for working on Christmas Day.’
      • ‘Australia has similar kinds of surcharges, not just for public holidays but for Saturdays and Sundays, given that it used to have much higher penal rates.’
      • ‘Nurses take home an average of 15 per cent extra in penal rates.’
      • ‘They do not mind paying penal rates, but when they have to give employees a day off in lieu, as well, then members can imagine the sorts of costs that will be incurred.’
      • ‘Current law enables staff to claim penal rates on top of penal rates for working on a public holiday.’
      • ‘I repeat that when penal rates were abolished the charges on public holidays did not go down, so presumably people in the industry were actually averaging the costs out across the year.’
      • ‘Some of those changes also imply no penal rates for public holidays on top of existing penal rates, or no public holiday rates if an employee does not work that day.’
      exorbitant, extortionate, excessive, outrageous, preposterous, immoderate, unreasonable, inordinate, iniquitous, inflated, sky-high, expensive, gross
      View synonyms


Late Middle English from Old French penal, from Latin poenalis, from poena ‘pain, penalty’.