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

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 Chris Kaiser, the group's advocacy director, said the bill could criminalize in vitro fertilization and various forms of birth control by defining a fertilized egg before implantation as a person, according to Reuters. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, 6 May 2022 Though Texas recently passed one of the most restrictive antiabortion laws in the country, the Texas Heartbeat Act doesn’t criminalize abortions. Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2022 At home, Putin has moved to crush dissent and criminalize antiwar activity. Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2022 But some fear the city’s new plan will unfairly criminalize homelessness and people of color. NBC News, 10 Mar. 2022 The Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the legislation as an effort to control the practice of medicine, interfere with doctor-patient relationships, and criminalize the standard of care for minors with gender dysphoria. Mike Cason |, al, 2 Mar. 2022 The bill would lengthen prison terms to between five and 10 years and criminalize LGBT+ activities specifically. Reuters, CNN, 14 Dec. 2021 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government has a hardline immigration stance, and Parliament is now considering a law that would criminalize entering the U.K. without a valid visa. Catherine Garcia, The Week, 15 Apr. 2022 Companies are responding to Texas legislation that would criminalize the use of medical treatments for trans youth. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 14 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near criminalize



criminal law

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Statistics for criminalize

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Criminalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for criminalize


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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