crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \ ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce criminalize (audio) , 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 How to pronounce criminalize (audio) , ˌkrim-​nə-​lə-​ˈzā-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for criminalize



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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 Some seemed ready to accept the government's broad reading of the statute, while others worried that doing so could criminalize a lot of innocuous online activity. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "The Supreme Court will finally rule on controversial US hacking law," 30 Nov. 2020 Barr told colleagues he was frustrated by Trump’s bluster, baseless accusations about voter fraud and desire to criminalize political conduct. Del Quentin Wilber, Los Angeles Times, "U.S. Atty. Gen. Barr steps down amid tumult at Justice Department," 14 Dec. 2020 Underlying this debate is the anticipated passage of the Rodchenkov Act, an anti-doping law that would greatly strengthen U.S. law enforcement's ability to criminalize international doping conspiracies. Eddie Pells, Star Tribune, "US: WADA efforts a direct personal attack on US government," 12 Nov. 2020 In response to the demonstrations, lawmakers passed and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed laws to criminalize the use of chokeholds by police and repealed a statute which kept police disciplinary records hidden from public view. Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "Trump Won New York’s Suffolk County. Why That Signals Hope for Democrats.," 8 Dec. 2020 Hopefully, the self-compassion that every person in recovery must come into in order to truly heal will eventually be mirrored by sensible, empathetic U.S. drug policy that doesn’t criminalize those who use drugs. Emma Specter, Vogue, "Miley Cyrus Opens Up About Staying Sober—And Relapsing—During the Pandemic," 3 Dec. 2020 One striking pattern is that Americans are rejecting policies that criminalize marijuana and other recreational drugs in every state where the question has appeared on ballots. Kate Baggaley, Popular Science, "All the ways the 2020 election has influenced science policy so far," 6 Nov. 2020 Los Angeles: The city is again considering a proposal to greatly restrict where homeless people may camp in public places around the city – rules that opponents say would criminalize homelessness. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Airport testing, legislative outbreak, voter intimidation: News from around our 50 states," 30 Oct. 2020 The Thai authorities have built a formidable legal structure to try to criminalize the movement. Muktita Suhartono, New York Times, "‘We Have to Speak Out’: Thai Students Defy Protest Ban," 18 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for criminalize

Time Traveler

The first known use of criminalize was circa 1956

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Statistics for criminalize

Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Criminalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for criminalize


How to pronounce criminalize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of criminalize

: to make (something) illegal


transitive verb
crim·​i·​nal·​ize | \ ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce criminalize (audio) \
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-​ How to pronounce criminalize (audio) \ noun

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