Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

poison pen

1. adjective Spiteful, malicious, or defamatory in composition, as of a letter or other written work, generally sent anonymously and with the aim of damaging or destroying a person's, group's, or organization's reputation or happiness. Always used before a noun. Often hyphenated. After agreeing to defend the alleged mass-murderer, the public defendant began receiving a large number of poison-pen letters from around the city. We've had enough trouble getting this restaurant up and running without having a poison-pen review like that in the papers!
2. adjective Characterized by, typified by, or inclined toward the writing and sending of such letters or pieces of writing. Always used before a noun. Often hyphenated. The outspoken feminist figure has been the target of a hateful poison-pen campaign by online misogynists who have hidden behind the shield of anonymity to conduct their attacks.
3. noun A disposition, attitude, inclination, or ability typified by the writing and sending such letters or pieces of writing. Every year or so, there is a new piece of diatribe and vitriol from the poison pen of the infamous white supremacist. The poison pen of the oft-feared but well-respected critic has been enough to cause the downfall of more than one virtuoso's career.
See also: pen, poison

slip of the pen

An unintentional mistake in one's writing, such as incorrect spelling, word choice, or meaning. Whoops, I meant to tell my mother that she was welcome to call over next Monday, but I actually wrote "next month" instead. Oh well, she'll understand that it was just a slip of the pen. Now take your time while writing these test essays—you don't want a few slips of the pen to be the reason you get a lower grade!
See also: of, pen, slip

pen pusher

One who has a boring, meaningless office job. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Gary was tired of being a pen pusher, so he decided to quit and start his own business.
See also: pen, pusher

poison-pen letter

A letter that contains malicious statements or accusations about the recipient or another party. Shortly after announcing his candidacy, he received an anonymous poison-pen letter attacking his platform.
See also: letter

put pen to paper

1. To write or begin to write something, especially on paper. My first advice to anyone struggling with their emotions is to keep a small journal and put pen to paper as often as possible. Writers from across the country have been putting pen to paper for the annual nonfiction festival.
2. To sign a contract. The football star has refused to put pen to paper until his pay exceeds that of his last contract.
See also: paper, pen, put

set pen to paper

To write or begin to write something, especially on paper. My first advice to anyone struggling with their emotions is to keep a small journal and set pen to paper as often as possible. Writers from across the country have been setting pen to paper for the annual nonfiction festival.
See also: paper, pen, set

slip of the lip

An unintentional mistake made while one is speaking, such as incorrect pronunciation, word choice, or meaning. The news anchor's innocent slip of the lip has gone viral, of course.
See also: lip, of, slip

the pen is mightier than the sword

Strong, eloquent, or well-crafted speech or writing is more influential on a greater number of people than force or violence. Through his hugely popular online campaign, the writer has harnessed the voices of millions of people to have the government stop its violent intervention in the region, proving that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.
See also: mighty, pen, sword

dip (one's) pen in gall

To write something that conveys one's animosity, anger, or malice. The critic must have dipped his pen in gall before writing that very negative review.
See also: dip, gall, pen

pen (someone or something) in

To contain or confine someone or something in a pen or something that functions like a pen. I managed to pen in the piglets before they got away. Just make sure the kids are penned in out back and let them play amongst themselves.
See also: pen

pen up

To imprison or confine someone or an animal inside of a pen or a similarly small, restricted space. We pen these convicts up with other criminals for years at a time, and you expect them all to become reformed citizens as a result? The man had penned up dozens of wild animals in a disused corner of his company's warehouse.
See also: pen, up

*in the bull pen

1. Lit. [of a baseball pitcher to be] in a special place near the playing field, warming up to pitch. (*Typically: be ~; go [into] ~.) You can tell who is pitching next by seeing who is in the bull pen. Our best pitcher just went into the bull pen. He'll be pitching soon.
2. Fig. in reserve, ready if needed. I'm willing to be in the bull pen. Just call me if you need me.
See also: bull, pen

pen is mightier than the sword

Prov. Eloquent writing persuades people better than military force. Believing that the pen is mightier than the sword, the rebels began publishing an underground newspaper. Alan: Why do you want to become a journalist? Bill: The pen is mightier than the sword.
See also: mighty, pen, sword

pen (someone or an animal) in (some place)

to confine someone or an animal in a pen. We penned all the kids in out in the backyard while we got the party things ready in the house. We had to pen in the kids to keep them away from the traffic. Alice penned her dog in.
See also: pen

pen (someone or an animal) up

to confine someone to a confined space or an animal to a pen. He said he didn't want them to pen him up in an office all day. They penned up the dog during the day.
See also: pen, up

poison-pen letter

A letter, usually anonymous, that makes malicious statements about the recipient or a third party. For example, She told the police about the poison-pen letters, but they said they couldn't pursue the matter . [Early 1900s]
See also: letter

slip of the lip

Also, slip of the tongue or pen . An inadvertent mistake in speaking (or writing), as in It was just a slip of the lip that made me say the wrong name, or She didn't mean it; it was a slip of the tongue, or He intended to write "the honorable" but a slip of the pen turned it into "reverend." The usage with pen dates from the mid-1600s; the others are a century or so younger.
See also: lip, of, slip

a pen pusher

mainly BRITISH or

a pencil pusher


a paper pusher

COMMON If you describe someone as a pen pusher or a pencil pusher, you mean that they have a boring office job and do not make any important decisions. People who used to be called administrators, and perhaps seen as just pen pushers, have been transformed into senior managers. Many of the men who now sit on company boards are pencil pushers with qualifications from top schools, but lack experience in business. Note: In both American and British English, you can also call someone a paper pusher. I didn't want to be just another faceless paper pusher. Note: You can refer to office work as pen-pushing, pencil-pushing, or paper-pushing. You can also say that office workers push papers or push pens. I want our police officers freed from paper-pushing. I'm very thankful that I can make a living from my art, rather than working as a waiter or pushing papers eight hours a day.
See also: pen, pusher

a slip of the pen

A slip of the pen is something you wrote by mistake. The translator dated his letter `Plymouth 1 June 1618'. This is wrong, and probably a slip of the pen for 11 June.
See also: of, pen, slip

dip your pen in gall

write unpleasantly or spitefully.
Gall is another word for bile, the bitter secretion of the liver; it is used in many places in the Bible as a metaphor for bitterness or affliction. See also wormwood and gall (at wormwood).
See also: dip, gall, pen

the pen is mightier than the sword

writing is more effective than military power or violence. proverb
See also: mighty, pen, sword

slip of the pen (or the tongue)

a minor mistake in writing (or speech).
The equivalent Latin phrases, lapsus calami and lapsus linguae , are also sometimes used in formal English.
See also: of, pen, slip

the ˌpen is ˌmightier than the ˈsword

(saying) people who write books, poems, etc. have a greater effect on history and human affairs than soldiers and wars
Mightier means ‘stronger’ or ‘more powerful’.
See also: mighty, pen, sword

put ˌpen to ˈpaper

(formal) write or start to write something: He spent hours thinking about what he should write, and it was midnight before he finally put pen to paper.
See also: paper, pen, put

a ˌpoison ˈpen letter

an unpleasant letter which is not signed and is intended to upset the person who receives it: Most politicians get poison pen letters, sometimes threatening their lives.
See also: letter, pen, poison

a slip of the ˈtongue/ˈpen

a small mistake when speaking or writing: Did I say North Street? Sorry, that was a slip of the tongue — I meant South Street.
See also: of, pen, slip, tongue

pen in

To confine someone or something in or as if in a pen: The farmer penned the pigs in for the night. If you don't pen in the chickens, the wolves will get them.
See also: pen


n. a penitentiary; prison. (Underworld.) Bart got sent to the pen for fifteen years.

pen is mightier than the sword, the

Writing is more powerful and effective than fighting. This adage appeared as a proverb in 1571 (“No more sword to be feared than the learned pen”) and then took a slightly different form in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): “The pen is worse than the sword.” It has quite naturally appealed to writers ever since. Time magazine (1990) used “The Pen Is Mightier” as a headline for a piece announcing that Poland had a journalist as its new prime minister, Czechoslovakia a playwright as president, and Hungary an English translator as president.
See also: mighty, pen

poison pen

A writer of a letter, usually anonymous, that is malicious and, sometimes libelous. It may attack either the recipient or a third party. The term, with its companion poison-pen letter, dates from the early 1900s. The poison is figurative, describing the scurrilous nature of the words. David Lodge used it in Changing Places (1975), “I’ve had what I believe is called a poison-pen letter from Euphoria, an anonymous letter.”
See also: pen, poison
References in periodicals archive ?
At a time when the fountain pens are going obsolete, this flamboyant creation gives a glimpse of the antiquated times when the fountain pens were in trend.
Summary: A new market study, titled "Discover Global Smart Insulin Pens Market Upcoming Trends, Growth Drivers and Challenges" has been featured on WiseGuyReports.
Elkos Pens Limited was incorporated in the year 2003-04 as manufacturer and exporter of ball pen, gel pen, direct fill pen, sketch pen and refills.
She said the fish pen operators were given until December to dismantle their structures.
The surface pen technology in the patent shows a stylus tip which operates depending on the pressure a user is applying onto the screen.
Prior to this, Kan, who is one of the seven candidates at the Port Dickson Parliamentary by-election on October 13, said he had bought pens from several supermarkets around the district to be distributed to the voters, but concurred with the order issued by the EC through e-mail, yesterday.
Such important issues as the vision of the current situation in a particular region, the cultural interaction of the PEN clubs with the authorities, the translation and preservation of the identity of languages, the preservation of the author's individuality in translating into other languages, proposals and ideas on effective cooperation between countries and integration with the international writers' movement PEN will be discussed within the convocation, the report said.
PEN also honored student activists from the Florida high school where 17 people were fatally shot in February and two journalists imprisoned in Myanmar.
This 9-year-old boy in Jammu and Kashmir has invented a pen that counts words while writing.
-- BD introduced last month the BD Ultra-Fine micro pen needle (6mm x 32G) for use with leading pen injection devices.
PESHAWAR -- Private Education Network (PEN) on Friday announced disassociation from the committee constituted by Education department to finalize rules and regulation for Private Schools' Regulatory Authority.
West Bengal, July 13 -- On July 1st, Elkos Pens, a leading manufacturer and exporter of ball pens, gel pens, sketch pens, direct fill pens and pen refills, held its official Opening ceremony at its new corporate headquarters located at 16 Strand Road, Diamond Heritage, 10th Floor, Office No : 1015A, Kolkata - 700001.
said its Universal Pen Framework (UPF) initiative has entered a new stage with Microsoft Corp.
TELECOMWORLDWIRE-April 1, 2016-Wacom to broaden digital pen interoperability in the marketplace