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Selection of colored pencils.


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

See also Old French pincel.



pencil (plural pencils)

  1. (obsolete) A paintbrush.
  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.
    • 1863, The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal
      When, by the pencil becoming oblique to the surface, the vergency produced on the pencil becomes changed, the primary and secondary focal points, V and H, separate []
  5. (medicine, archaic) A small medicated bougie.

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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.

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  1. to be isolated, separated

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Affixed derivations: