jail

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

  • gaol (UK, Australia, dated)

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English gaiole, gayle, gaile, gayll, via Old French gaiole, gaole, geole, geole, from Medieval Latin gabiola, for *caveola, a diminutive of Latin cavea (cavity, coop, cage).

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (file)

Noun[edit]

jail (countable and uncountable, plural jails)

  1. A place for the confinement of persons held in lawful custody or detention, especially for minor offenses or with reference to some future judicial proceeding.
    • 1966, Robert Coover, “Part II, section 11”, in The Origin of the Brunists, edition first, page 218:
      Taking a shower at the high school, Tommy (the Kitten) Cavanaugh kids Ugly Palmers. "Ugly, if you think the world is coming to an end," he says, "what are you wasting your time here at this jail for? You gonna need American history up there?"
  2. (uncountable) Confinement in a jail.
  3. (horse racing) The condition created by the requirement that a horse claimed in a claiming race not be run at another track for some period of time (usually 30 days).
  4. In dodgeball and related games, the area where players who have been struck by the ball are confined.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (prison): Like many nouns denoting places where people spend time, jail requires no article after certain prepositions: hence in jail (detained in a jail), go to jail (become detained in a jail), and so on. The forms in a jail, go to a jail, and so on do exist, but tend to imply mere presence in the jail, rather than detention there.
  • Until Monopoly popularised the spelling jail in the UK and Australia, gaol was the standard spelling in these countries.

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Verb[edit]

jail (third-person singular simple present jails, present participle jailing, simple past and past participle jailed)

  1. To imprison.
    • 2013 August 10, “Can China clean up fast enough?”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8848: 
      It has jailed environmental activists and is planning to limit the power of judicial oversight by handing a state-approved body a monopoly over bringing environmental lawsuits.

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