cas·​ti·​gate ˈka-stə-ˌgāt How to pronounce castigate (audio)
castigated; castigating

transitive verb

: to subject to severe punishment, reproof, or criticism
The judge castigated the lawyers for their lack of preparation.
castigation noun
castigator noun

Did you know?

Castigate has a synonym in chastise. Both verbs mean to punish or to censure someone. Fittingly, both words derive from the same root: the Latin castigare, formed from the words for "pure" (castus) and "to drive" (agere). (Castus also gave us the noun caste, meaning "social class or rank.") Another verb derived from castigare is chasten, which can also mean "to discipline by punishment" but more commonly means "to subdue or make humble" (as in "chastened by his foolish error"). Castigate is the youngest of the three verbs in English, dating from the early 17th century, while chasten dates to the early 16th century and chastise has been found in use as far back as the 14th.

Choose the Right Synonym for castigate

punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing.

punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing.

punished for stealing

chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation.

chastised his son for neglecting his studies

castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure.

an editorial castigating the entire city council

chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued.

chastened by a landslide election defeat

discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control.

parents must discipline their children

correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender.

the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer

Examples of castigate in a Sentence

The author castigated the prime minister as an ineffective leader. castigated him for his constant tardiness
Recent Examples on the Web He was castigated for authorizing telephone wiretaps of reporters and his own National Security Council staff to plug news leaks in Nixon’s White House. Nancy Benac, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2023 But Hollywood has also castigated stars for speaking up about the plight of the Palestinian people. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 26 Nov. 2023 Former President Donald Trump castigated Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) over her endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), one of his top rivals in the 2024 presidential primary, in a video released on Tuesday. Mabinty Quarshie, Washington Examiner, 21 Nov. 2023 Self-examination begets only more self-examination, much of it castigating. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2023 Chinese officials have castigated the U.S. for voting against a resolution in the United Nations Security Council — which China is chairing this month — that called for a pause in fighting. Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2023 At the Arab summit in Riyadh, the leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia, which restored diplomatic relations early this year, castigated Israel in vociferous terms. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 12 Nov. 2023 Opposing sides castigate the other as holding, in effect, monstrous points of view – unfit to function within society. Ali Martin, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Oct. 2023 Endeavor Chief Executive Ari Emanuel on Wednesday castigated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing a massive failure of Israeli intelligence agencies to anticipate Saturday’s surprise cross-border attack by Hamas militants. Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'castigate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin castīgātus, past participle of castīgāre "to discipline for a fault or lapse, reprove, censure," perhaps from *casti-, stem of *castis "reprimand" (going back to Indo-European *ḱHs-ti-, whence also Sanskrit śiṣṭi- "instruction") + *-ig-, going back to Indo-European -h2ǵ-, zero-grade of *h2eǵ- "drive, impel, lead" — more at agent

Note: This etymology follows G. Dunkel, "Latin verbs in -igāre and -īgāre," 125 Jahre Indogermanistik in Graz (Graz: Leykam, 2000), pp. 87-99. According to the older conventional explanation, the initial element is the adjective castus "free from, untouched (by the thing specified), pure, not sexually promiscuous" (see chaste), but semantically this is a poor fit, and does not clearly account for the long ī. On the other hand, Dunkel's hypothesis would mean that Indo-European *ḱeHs- shows up in Latin only in this presumed i-stem derivative and nowhere else, unless castus itself can be attributed to the same etymon—but again that does not fit well semantically ("instruct, reprove" > "pure"?). See also the note at chaste.

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of castigate was in 1606


Dictionary Entries Near castigate

Cite this Entry

“Castigate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


cas·​ti·​gate ˈkas-tə-ˌgāt How to pronounce castigate (audio)
castigated; castigating
: to punish, scold, or criticize harshly
castigation noun
castigator noun

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