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


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

Of the more than 70 countries globally that criminalize homosexuality, more than half were once under British dominion. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "In Landmark Ruling, Botswana Strikes Down Colonial-Era Law Criminalizing Homosexuality," 11 June 2019 According to the Associated Press, no city funds will be allowed to enforce laws criminalizing the hallucinogens, and police officers will be able to focus on higher-priority investigations. Helen Murphy,, "Oakland, California, Becomes Second U.S. City to Decriminalize 'Magic Mushrooms'," 5 June 2019 No city funds could be used to enforce laws criminalizing the substances, and the Alameda County District Attorney would stop prosecuting people who have been apprehended for use or possession. Samantha Maldonado, The Denver Post, "Oakland becomes second U.S. city, after Denver, to decriminalize magic mushrooms," 5 June 2019 The district says the regulations are aimed at protecting schools without criminalizing students. Talia Richman,, "Baltimore school board votes to approve one of six charter applications," 13 June 2018 The decision could ratify a trend of criminalizing medical judgments and jailing doctors based on disagreements with other doctors. Kyle Clark And Andrew George, WSJ, "Medicare’s Hospice Rules Could Make Your Doctor a Criminal," 21 Mar. 2019 The law criminalized references to Polish guilt in Nazi atrocities and was to be enforced with jail time. Rick Noack, Washington Post, "Poland’s controversial ‘Holocaust Law’ set to be reversed after global outcry," 27 June 2018 Yet critics of the Russia investigations are wrong to suggest the attacks on the president and his associates reflect the increasing tendency to criminalize policy differences. Lee Smith, WSJ, "What if the FBI Had Probed Obama?," 23 Jan. 2019 But critics say the administration uses a broad brush to criminalize asylum seekers and families seeking a haven in the United States. Devlin Barrett, Mike Debonis, Washington Post, "Congress, courts stymie Trump border crackdown," 27 June 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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Statistics for criminalize

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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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Comments on criminalize

What made you want to look up criminalize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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