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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English precinct, precincte, early 15th century, in sense of “district for government purposes”, from Medieval Latin precinctum, alternative form of praecinctum (enclosure, boundary line), neuter singular of praecinctus, perfect passive participle of Latin praecingō (surround, gird), from prae (before) + cingō (surround, encircle), from which also cinch.[1]

Cognate to Italian precingere (to encircle).


  • enPR: prē'sĭngkt, IPA(key): /ˈpɹisɪŋkt/
  • (file)


precinct (plural precincts)

  1. (chiefly in the plural) An enclosed space having defined limits, normally marked by walls.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Author by an Extraordinary Stratagem Prevents an Invasion. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput), page 91:
      For, by the fundamental Laws of the Realm, it is Capital in any Perſon, of what Quality ſoever, to make water within the Precincts of the Palace.
  2. (chiefly in the plural) The general area surrounding a place, environs.
  3. (UK) A pedestrianized and uncovered shopping area.
  4. (US, law enforcement) A subdivision of a city under the jurisdiction of a specific group of police; the police station situated in that district.
  5. (US) A subdivision of a city or other locality for the purposes of voting and representation in local government. In cities, precincts may be grouped into wards.
  6. (archaic) A district over which someone or some body of people has control in general; province, sphere of control.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], 2nd edition, part 1, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, →OCLC; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire, London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, (please specify the page):
      But ſince I loue to liue at libertie,
      As eaſily may you get the Souldans crowne,
      As any prizes out of my precinct.
  7. (archaic) A surrounding boundary or limit.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “precinct”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.