crim·​i·​nal·​ize ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce criminalize (audio)
criminalized; criminalizing

transitive verb

: to make illegal
also : to turn into a criminal or treat as criminal
ˌkri-mə-nə-lə-ˈzā-shən How to pronounce criminalize (audio)

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 Excessive prison sentences tore families apart and criminalized those with substance use issues instead of providing resources for treatment. Raisa Habersham, Miami Herald, 11 Apr. 2024 Donald Trump said Wednesday that an Arizona law that criminalizes nearly all abortions goes too far and called on Arizona lawmakers to change it, while also defending the overturning of Roe v. Wade that cleared states to ban the procedure. Bill Barrow, Fortune, 10 Apr. 2024 The sorts of business activities that are considered normal in other parts of the world have now been criminalized under Article 23’s state-secrets provisions. The Editors, National Review, 21 Mar. 2024 The local law criminalizes treason, insurrection, theft of state secrets and espionage, sabotage endangering national security, and external interference. Jennifer Jett, NBC News, 20 Mar. 2024 Pending further court action, Texas will continue to be prohibited from enforcing SB4, which would criminalize unauthorized immigration at the state level. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 27 Mar. 2024 Now another defensive staple has been criminalized. Greg Cote, Miami Herald, 27 Mar. 2024 In 2021, the National Homelessness Law Center released a national study on state laws criminalizing homelessness. USA TODAY, 21 Mar. 2024 Yet even some Republicans publicly complained that the impeachment set a dangerous precedent for criminalizing a policy disagreement, and their dissent helped Democrats outplay him. David D. Kirkpatrick, The New Yorker, 15 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'criminalize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


criminal entry 1 + -ize

First Known Use

circa 1956, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of criminalize was circa 1956

Dictionary Entries Near criminalize

Cite this Entry

“Criminalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition


transitive verb
crim·​i·​nal·​ize ˈkri-mə-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce criminalize (audio)
criminalized; criminalizing
: to make criminal : outlaw
the statute criminalizing the use of contraceptivesR. H. Bork
compare illegalize
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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