What is the difference between penal and criminal?

What is the difference between penal and criminal?
As adjectives the difference between penal and criminal is that penal is of, or relating to punishment while criminal is being against the law; forbidden by law. As a noun criminal is a person who is guilty of a crime, notably breaking the law.



Alternative forms

* (l) (obsolete)
* (archaic)
* (obsolete)



  • Of or relating to punishment.
  • penal servitude
  • Subject to punishment; punishable.
  • a penal offence
  • Serving as a place of punishment.
  • a penal colony






    (en adjective )

  • Being against the law; forbidden by law.
  • * Addison
  • Foppish and fantastic ornaments are only indications of vice, not criminal in themselves.
  • Guilty of breaking the law.
  • * Rogers
  • The neglect of any of the relative duties renders us criminal in the sight of God.
  • Of or relating to crime or penal law.
  • * Hallam
  • The officers and servants of the crown, violating the personal liberty, or other right of the subject were in some cases liable to criminal process.
    His long criminal record suggests that he is a dangerous man.
  • (figuratively) Abhorrent or very undesirable, even if allowed by law.
  • ”Printing such asinine opinions without rebuttal is criminal , even when not libel!

    Usage notes

    * Nouns to which “criminal” is often applied: law, justice, court, procedure, prosecution, intent, case, record, act, action, behavior, code, offence, liability, investigation, conduct, defense, trial, history, responsibility, lawyer, tribunal, appeal, process, background, mind, conspiracy, evidence, gang, organization, underworld, jurisprudence, offender, jury, police, past, group, punishment, attorney, violence, report, career, psychology.


    * illegal

    Derived terms

    * criminal conversation
    * criminalisation
    * criminalist
    * criminalistics
    * criminality
    * criminalize
    * criminal law
    * criminal-law
    * criminally
    * criminal negligence
    * criminalness
    * criminal-offence
    * criminal offence
    * criminal procedure
    * criminal record


    (en noun )

  • A person who is guilty of a crime, notably breaking the law.
  • * {{quote-book, year=1963, author=(Margery Allingham)
  • , title=(The China Governess)
    , chapter=3 citation
    , passage=‘[…] There’s every Staffordshire crime-piece ever made in this cabinet, and that’s unique. The Van Hoyer Museum in New York hasn’t that very rare second version of Maria Marten’s Red Barn over there, nor the little Frederick George Manning—he was the criminal Dickens saw hanged on the roof of the gaol in Horsemonger Lane, by the way—’}}


    * lawbreaker
    * offender
    * perpetrator
    * See also