Penitentiary is defined as a prison, or a tribunal in the Roman Catholic Church.(noun)
The definition of penitentiary is punishable by imprisonment, or used for punishment or disciplining.(adjective)
An example of penitentiary used as an adjective is in the phrase "penitentiary ruling," which means a ruling sending someone to prison for punishment.
See penitentiary in Webster's New World College Dictionary
Origin: ML penitentiarius, poenitentiarius (form and meaning infl. by assoc. with L poena: see penal) < L paenitentia < paenitens, penitent
noun pl. penitentiaries
Origin: ML penitentiaria < the adj.
Origin: ML(Ec) penitentiarius < the adj.an office or tribunal headed by a cardinal () and dealing with matters of penance, confession, dispensation, absolution, etc.
See penitentiary in American Heritage Dictionary 4
noun pl. pen·i·ten·tia·ries
Origin: Middle English penitenciarie, penance officer, episcopal prison
Origin: , from Medieval Latin pēnitentiāria
Origin: , feminine of pēnitentiārius
Origin: , from Latin paenitentia, penitence
Origin: , from paenitēns, penitent; see penitent.
Learn more about penitentiary