synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of jail in English

English Online Dictionary. What means jail‎? What does jail mean?


Alternative forms

  • gaol (UK, Australia, Ireland, dated)


From Middle English gayole, gaylle, gaille, gayle, gaile, via Old French gaiole, gayolle, gaole, from Medieval Latin gabiola, for Vulgar Latin *caveola, a diminutive of Latin cavea (cavity, coop, cage). Doublet of cage.


  • IPA(key): /dʒeɪ(ə)l/
  • Rhymes: -eɪl


jail (countable and uncountable, plural jails)

  1. A place or institution for the confinement of persons held in lawful custody or detention, especially for minor offenses or with reference to some future judicial proceeding.
  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.
  5. (computing, FreeBSD) A kind of sandbox for running a guest operating system instance.

Usage notes

  • (place of confinement): 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.
  • In the United States, there is a formal distinction between the terms jail and prison – the former refers to facilities run by local governments, the later refers to facilities run by the state and federal governments; however, this distinction is not always observed in informal usage. By contrast, in most of the rest of the English-speaking world, the two terms are synonymous.


  • (place of confinement): slammer, hoosegow


  • (place of confinement): correctional facility, correctional institution

Coordinate terms

  • (place of confinement): big house, prison

Derived terms


  • Hindi: जेल (jel)
  • Urdu: جیل(jel)



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

  1. To imprison.


  • imprison
  • incarcerate



  • jali

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This article based on an article on Wiktionary. The list of authors can be seen in the page history there. The original work has been modified. This article is distributed under the terms of this license.