Skip to main content
Select Source:

pen

pen, pointed implement used in writing or drawing to apply ink or a similar colored fluid to any surface, such as paper. Various kinds of pens have been used since ancient times. Reeds that were slit or frayed at the end were used in antiquity; similar pens, usually made of bamboo, are commonly employed in Asia today. In ancient Greece and Rome much writing was done by scratching the wax coating of a tablet with a stylus, or style—a pointed implement whose blunt end was used to make erasures by smoothing the wax. Quills were introduced early in the Middle Ages and continued to be the main writing device until the mid-19th cent. Plucked from live birds (usually geese), the quills were treated with heat and shaped with a penknife, and they required frequent sharpening. Although metal pens were known to the Romans, and a few had been made in Europe in the 18th cent., a cheap, efficient slip-in nib did not come into common use until Josiah Mason improved existing models and began large-scale production in 1828 at Birmingham, England. The fountain pen, which feeds ink to the pen point from a reservoir, was first successfully produced on a commercial scale in the 1880s. The ball-point pen, introduced c.1944, offered several advantages over the fountain pen. Tipped with a ball bearing that rolls a gelatinous instant-drying ink onto paper, the ball-point pen contains a longer-lasting supply of ink than the fountain pen and is less likely to leak. Although soft-tip pens had been used in ancient times (the Egyptians made soft-tip pens from rushes c.4000 BC, and the Chinese later used hair-tip pens), it was not until the 1950s that felt-tip markers came into fairly common use in the United States. By the 1960s felt-tip markers had been largely replaced by fiber-tip markers. These are made of such materials as nylon and plastic, are available in a wide variety of colors, and are capable of marking any surface, including plastic and glass.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pen

"pen." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pen

pen

pen1 / pen/ • n. 1. an instrument for writing or drawing with ink, typically consisting of a metal nib or ball, or a nylon tip, fitted into a metal or plastic holder. ∎  (the pen) the occupation or practice of writing: she was forced to support herself not only by the pen, but as a secret agent. ∎  an electronic penlike device used in conjunction with a writing surface to enter commands or data into a computer. 2. Zool. the tapering cartilaginous internal shell of a squid. • v. (penned , pen·ning ) [tr.] write or compose: he had not penned a line to Lizzie in three years. PHRASES: put (or set) pen to paper write or begin to write something. pen2 • n. a small enclosure in which sheep, pigs, cattle, or other domestic animals are kept. ∎  a number of animals in or sufficient to fill such an enclosure: a pen of young horses. ∎  any small enclosure in which someone or something can be confined. ∎  a covered dock for a submarine or other warship. • v. (penned , pen·ning ) [tr.] put or keep (an animal) in a pen: it was the practice to pen the sheep for clipping. ∎  (pen someone up/in) confine someone in a restricted space: they had been penned up day and night in the house. pen3 • n. a female swan. pen4 • n. inf. short for penitentiary (sense 1).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-4

"pen." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-4

pen

pen the pen is mightier than the sword proverbial saying, late 16th century, meaning that written words may often have more lasting force than military strength; the same idea is found in the writings of the Roman orator and statesman Cicero (106–43 bc), ‘arms give way to persuasion.’
pen-name an assumed name used by a writer instead of their real name.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen

"pen." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen

pen

pen2 instrument, orig. quill, for writing XIII; (dial.) feather XIV. ME. penne — (O)F. — L. penna feather, pl. pinions, wings, in late L. pen; see FEATHER.
Hence pen vb.2 XV. penknife XV. orig. one used for mending quill pens.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-6

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-6

pen

pen1 enclosure for domestic animals. XIV. presumably repr. OE. penn, evidenced only in designations of local features of uncertain meaning; implied in OE. onpennad ‘unpenned’, opened.
So pen vb.1 enclose, confine. XII.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-5

"pen." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-5

PEN

PEN • abbr. International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"PEN." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"PEN." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-3

"PEN." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-3

pen

penAdrienne, again, amen, Ardennes, Behn, Ben, Benn, Bren, cayenne, Cévennes, Dairen, den, en, fen, gen, glen, Glenn, Guyenne, Gwen, hen, julienne, Karen, ken, Len, Loren, men, Nene, Ogaden, paren, pen, Penn, Phnom Penh, Rennes, Shenzhen, Sun Yat-sen, ten, then, Tlemcen, when, wren, yen, zazen, Zen •Chechen • Nurofen • peahen •moorhen • Origen • allergen • admen •bagmen, ragmen, swagmen •packmen • gasmen • taxmen •jazzmen • ramen • yardmen • legmen •chessmen • repairmen • flamen •mailmen • cavemen • he-men •freedmen • milkmen • linkmen •middlemen • wingmen • hitmen •handymen • bogeymen • hymen •icemen • conmen • strongmen •lawmen, strawmen •cognomen, nomen, praenomen, snowmen •patrolmen • oilmen • Shumen •newsmen •frontmen, stuntmen •firemen, wiremen •anchormen • newspapermen •cameramen • motormen •weathermen • mermen • playpen •pigpen • fountain pen • bullpen •samisen • Leuven • Ceinwen •somewhen

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pen." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pen." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-2

"pen." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pen-2