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Definition of penitentiary:

  1. A house of correction, in which offenders are confined for punishment, discipline, and reformation, and in which they are generally compelled to labor.
  2. A small building in a monastery where penitents confessed.
  3. An office of the papal court which examines cases of conscience, confession, absolution from vows, etc., and delivers decisions, dispensations, etc. Its chief is a cardinal, called the Grand Penitentiary, appointed by the pope.
  4. An officer in some dioceses since A. D. 1215, vested with power from the bishop to absolve in cases reserved to him.
  5. Expressive of penitence; as, a penitentiary letter.
  6. One who does penance.
  7. One who prescribes the rules and measures of penance.
  8. Relating to penance, or to the rules and measures of penance.
  9. That part of a church to which penitents were admitted.
  10. Used for punishment, discipline, and reformation.

Synonyms:

penal, can, playpen, house of correction, joint, clink, disciplinary, calaboose, slammer, pen, refractory, free, pokey, punitory, hoosegow, stir, punitive, penitential, big house.

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