crim·i·nal·ize | \ ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz , ˈkrim-nə-ˌlīz \
criminalized; criminalizing

Definition of criminalize 

transitive verb

: to make illegal also : to turn into a criminal or treat as criminal

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Other words from criminalize

criminalization \ˌkri-mə-nə-lə-ˈzā-shən, ˌkrim-nə-lə-ˈzā- \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for criminalize


illegalize, outlaw


decriminalize, legalize

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Examples of criminalize in a Sentence

a law that criminalized alcohol wanted to criminalize an activity that the mountaineers had been engaging in for generations

Recent Examples on the Web

Defendants and their supporters have framed the case as an indiscriminate police round-up followed by a concerted Justice Department effort to criminalize legitimate dissent. Ashraf Khalil,, "Trials for violent protest framed as Trump vs the resistance," 21 May 2018 The business travel industry was often ignoring the risks of sending L.G.B.T.Q. employees and contractors into countries that criminalize them without any warning, advice or resources. Tanya Mohn, New York Times, "An L.G.B.T.Q. Guide to Traveling Safely Abroad," 21 June 2018 These include self-blame, isolation, feelings of guilt and shame, limited access to healthcare, difficulty establishing trust with others, a fear of being criminalized themselves, cultural barriers and a lack of knowledge of their rights as victims. Lujain Alhajji, M.d., miamiherald, "Human trafficking, modern-day slavery | Miami Herald," 26 Mar. 2018 Poland is watering down its controversial law that criminalizes any suggestion the nation was responsible for the mass murder of Jews during World War II, five months after the legislation caused international outrage. Wojciech Moskwa,, "Poland Softens Holocaust Law That Caused an International Outcry," 27 June 2018 Jones said the country’s process for filing asylum claims must be used before criminalizing those entering the country. Supriya Sridhar, The Courier-Journal, "Groups rallied against the criminalization of families at the border," 21 June 2018 Boycotting the vote is risky following a presidential decree that criminalized calls to abstain from casting a ballot. Fox News, "Fearing bloodshed, Burundi faces vote on president's power," 17 May 2018 The Official Secrets Act under which the Reuters journalists are charged is a colonial-era law that criminalizes the intention to share anything the Myanmar government wants to conceal. Verena Hölzl / Yangon, Time, "They've Spent Months in Jail for Doing Their Jobs. But These Two Reuters Reporters Are Not Losing Hope," 4 Apr. 2018 Adam Brandt, a minor Greens party lawmaker who described the legislation as criminalizing dissent, was the only lawmaker other than Wilkie to vote against the bills in the House. Rod Mcguirk, The Christian Science Monitor, "Australia approves bill to make foreign influence on politics more transparent," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'criminalize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of criminalize

circa 1956, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for criminalize

criminal entry 1 + -ize

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for criminalize

The first known use of criminalize was circa 1956

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English Language Learners Definition of criminalize

: to make (something) illegal


transitive verb
crim·i·nal·ize | \ ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz \
criminalized; criminalizing

Legal Definition of criminalize 

: to make criminal : outlaw the statute criminalizing the use of contraceptives —R. H. Bork — compare illegalize

Other words from criminalize

criminalization \ˌkri-mə-nə-lə-ˈzā-shən, -ˌlī- \ noun

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