noun sanc·tion \ˈsaŋ(k)-shən\

: an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.

: official permission or approval

Full Definition of SANCTION

:  a formal decree; especially :  an ecclesiastical decree
a obsolete :  a solemn agreement :  oath
b :  something that makes an oath binding
:  the detriment, loss of reward, or coercive intervention annexed to a violation of a law as a means of enforcing the law
a :  a consideration, principle, or influence (as of conscience) that impels to moral action or determines moral judgment
b :  a mechanism of social control for enforcing a society's standards
c :  explicit or official approval, permission, or ratification :  approbation
:  an economic or military coercive measure adopted usually by several nations in concert for forcing a nation violating international law to desist or yield to adjudication

Examples of SANCTION

  1. The country acted without the sanction of the other nations.
  2. Their policy has legal sanction.

Origin of SANCTION

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin sanction-, sanctio, from sancire to make holy — more at sacred
First Known Use: 15th century


transitive verb

: to officially accept or allow (something)

sanc·tionedsanc·tion·ing \-sh(ə-)niŋ\

Full Definition of SANCTION

:  to make valid or binding usually by a formal procedure (as ratification)
:  to give effective or authoritative approval or consent to
sanc·tion·able \-sh(ə-)nə-bəl\ adjective

Examples of SANCTION

  1. The government has sanctioned the use of force.
  2. His actions were not sanctioned by his superiors.

First Known Use of SANCTION


Synonym Discussion of SANCTION

approve, endorse, sanction, accredit, certify mean to have or express a favorable opinion of. approve often implies no more than this but may suggest considerable esteem or admiration <the parents approve of the marriage>. endorse suggests an explicit statement of support <publicly endorsed her for Senator>. sanction implies both approval and authorization <the President sanctioned covert operations>. accredit and certify usually imply official endorsement attesting to conformity to set standards <the board voted to accredit the college> <must be certified to teach>.

Other Legal Terms

actionable, alienable, carceral, chattel, complicity, decedent, larceny, malfeasance, modus operandi
SANCTION[2] Defined for Kids


noun sanc·tion \ˈsaŋk-shən\

Definition of SANCTION for Kids

:  official approval or permission <The soldiers' conduct did not have the king's sanction.>
:  an action (as the ending of financial aid) taken by one or more nations to make another nation comply with a law or rule



Definition of SANCTION for Kids

:  to officially accept or allow <The coaches sanctioned the new rule.>


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