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 criminalization (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 The same national governments that criticize and criminalize activists cannot be entrusted with protecting them. Popular Science, "Latin American environmentalists face unprecedented violence in defending their land," 30 Dec. 2019 Ava Kofman lays out, detail by infuriating detail, how digital technologies touted as progress are used to criminalize poverty. Stat Staff, STAT, "We wish we’d written that: STAT staffers share their favorite stories of 2019," 24 Dec. 2019 This includes ending money bail and fines that criminalize poor and low-income people, and ending the federal death penalty and solitary confinement. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Everything You Need to Know About Kamala Harris's Policies Before the Election," 13 Sep. 2019 Anti-corruption activists have expressed concern that politicians and Morales’ government would seek to criminalize the commission’s work and move against anti-corruption judges and prosecutors. Washington Post, "Face of Guatemala’s anti-corruption fight faces threats," 25 Nov. 2019 Factors included the blocking of social media services and new laws that criminalize online speech. David Ingram, NBC News, "More governments than ever are using social media to push propaganda, report says," 5 Nov. 2019 Back in May, Alabama's legislature passed a law banning abortions in the state, which would criminalize doctors who choose to perform the procedure with up to 99 years in prison. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Alabama's Abortion Ban Was Blocked by a Federal Judge," 29 Oct. 2019 Right now there are two laws that criminalize threats of violence. Scott Travis,, "Threatening a mass shooting is a crime in Florida only if it’s in writing. But that could soon change.," 16 Oct. 2019 While Cooper gets calls from parents frantic about disabled children lost in the system, her work also includes unaccompanied minors, the children with no parents ensnared in a system that effectively criminalizes immigration. S.e. Smith, Vox, "Meet the people fighting for health care access for disabled kids detained at the border," 26 June 2019

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

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Criminalize.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 18 January 2020.

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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 criminalization (audio) \ noun

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