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noun, pen·al·ty \ˈpe-nəl-tē\

Simple Definition of penalty

  • : punishment for breaking a rule or law

  • : a disadvantage or difficulty you experience

  • : a punishment or disadvantage given to a team or player for breaking a rule in a game

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of penalty

plural penalties

  1. 1 :  the suffering in person, rights, or property that is annexed by law or judicial decision to the commission of a crime or public offense

  2. 2 :  the suffering or the sum to be forfeited to which a person agrees to be subjected in case of nonfulfillment of stipulations

  3. 3 a :  disadvantage, loss, or hardship due to some action b :  a disadvantage (as loss of yardage, time, or possession of the ball or an addition to or subtraction from the score) imposed on a team or competitor for violation of the rules of a sport

  4. 4 :  points scored in bridge by the side that defeats the opposing contract —usually used in plural

penalty adjective

Examples of penalty in a sentence

  1. The company was given a severe penalty for the violation.

  2. They allowed him to pay back the money without a penalty.

  3. They allowed him to pay back the money without penalty.

  4. Lack of privacy is one of the penalties you pay for fame.

  5. The hockey player was given a penalty for holding.

Origin of penalty

Middle English penalte, from Middle French penalité, from Medieval Latin poenalitas, from Latin poenalis

First Known Use: 15th century

PENALTY Defined for Kids


noun pen·al·ty \ˈpe-nəl-tē\

Definition of penalty for Students

plural penalties

  1. 1 :  punishment for doing something wrong

  2. 2 :  a disadvantage given for breaking a rule in a sport or game

Word Root of penalty

The Latin word poena, meaning “punishment,” gives us the root pen or pun. Words from the Latin poena have something to do with punishments. A penalty is a punishment for doing something wrong. Anything penal, such as a group of laws, explains punishments for specific crimes. Punish and punishment also come from poena.

Law Dictionary


noun pen·al·ty \ˈpen-əl-tē\

Legal Definition of penalty

plural penalties

  1. 1 :  a punishment that is imposed on a wrongdoer by statute or judicial decision

  2. 2 :  a pecuniary sum that by agreement is to be paid by a party who fails to fulfill an obligation to another and that is punitive rather than compensatory <the court declined to enforce the contractual penalty and determined actual damages instead>

Seen and Heard

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the range of perception or understanding

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