General English



  • noun a long thin instrument used for writing or drawing in ink


  • The pointing device of a digitizing tablet. It is similar to a mouse, but is much more accurate, because its location is determined by touching an active surface with an absolute reference. Also called puck, cursor (4), or stylus (1).
  • The pointing device of a PDA, which serves for selection or input. Also called stylus (2).

Origin & History of “pen”

English has three words pen. The oldest, ‘enclosure’ (OE), is something of a mystery term. It has no known relatives in the other European languages, and even in English it is not unequivocally found in its current sense until the 14th century. Pent (16th c.), as in ‘pent up’, originated in the past participle of the verb pen.

The earliest writing implements known as ‘pens’ were of course made from feathers, and so it is not surprising that the word pen (13th c.) comes from a word that meant ‘feather’. this was Latin penna, source also of English pennon (14th c.) and a distant relative of English feather. It entered English via Old French penne.

Pen ‘female swan’ (16th c.) is of unknown origin.