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 proposals would ban all foreign political donations, criminalize attempts by foreign actors to influence the government, and give law enforcement agencies greater powers. Ben Westcott, CNN, "Australia's attempts to rebuild relationship with Beijing run into trouble," 23 May 2018 But the panel also ruled Idaho’s law correctly criminalized those who made false statements to either obtain records at an agricultural facility or to obtain employment with the intent to inflict harm. Keith Ridler, The Seattle Times, "Idaho to pay $260,000 in legal fees in dairy spying lawsuit," 4 Dec. 2018 Besides the row over bonuses, the authorities have also been embroiled in a conflict over new rules criminalizing suggestions of Polish complicity in the Holocaust, which has outraged Israel and alarmed Polish allies such as the U.S. and France. Marek Strzelecki,, "Poland to Shed Top Government Jobs Following Outcry Over Bonuses," 5 Mar. 2018 This is certainly the case with regard to Poland’s proposed law criminalizing specific ways of discussing the Holocaust. Colin Dueck, National Review, "How to Defend the West," 7 Feb. 2018 Now, as that work has been criminalized many beyond just smugglers are searching for new ways to make ends meet, and resentment is growing. Joe Parkinson, WSJ, "‘A Nest of Spies’: Niger’s Deserts Become Front Line of Fight Against Jihadism," 17 Sep. 2018 Schulte gave a 101 class on how to use the police to criminalize innocent people. Michelle Dione Snider, The Root, "When Barbecuing and Living While Black Becomes a Crime," 28 May 2018 The new laws included doubling the prison sentence for rape to 2 years and criminalizing voyeurism and stalking. Deutsche Welle, USA TODAY, "India approves death penalty for child rapists," 21 Apr. 2018 Houska believes that the U.S. is actively seeking to criminalize people for getting off the grid and moving to renewable energy. Sarah Hurtes, Harper's BAZAAR, "Women Who Risk Everything to Defend the Environment," 30 Nov. 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

22 Feb 2019

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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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