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

The trial was the first known enforcement of a 2013 law for the Vatican City State that specifically criminalized possession and distribution of child pornography, punishing it with up to five years in prison and a 50,000 euro fine. Nicole Winfield,, "Vatican convicts ex-diplomat of child porn distribution," 23 June 2018 Hungary’s government is ramping up its battle against billionaire George Soros by drafting new laws criminalizing those who help migrants seeking asylum. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Hungary, in latest 'Stop Soros' laws, wants to criminalize migrant helpers," 29 May 2018 In the state of Sikkim, lawmakers went as far as to criminalize chemical pesticides in 2014 — and the state recently became 100 percent organic. Vidhi Doshi, Washington Post, "Goa’s agriculture minister wants farmers to use ‘cosmic farming’ instead of fertilizer," 4 July 2018 This isn’t the first time a country has passed a law that regulates what Muslim women wear Several other countries have enacted bans or attempted to criminalize full-face veils. Madeleine Ngo, Vox, "The Netherlands just passed a law banning face veils in public buildings," 26 June 2018 After a little more than two days of deliberation, the 12 jurors acquitted Green of three of the charges and were hung on the other two, apparently accepting the defense argument that prosecutors were wrongly trying to criminalize a friendship. Craig R. Mccoy,, "Former Philly Sheriff John Green beats every charge in federal bribery-conspiracy trial," 3 Apr. 2018 Defense attorneys review thousands of hours of phone calls recorded by the FBI and allege the government is trying to criminalize violations of NCAA rules. Nathan Fenno,, "Loyola Chicago helps make sense of March Madness during a scandal-plagued season," 24 Mar. 2018 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 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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Statistics for criminalize

Last Updated

15 Nov 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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