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

Federal courts reporter Eric Heisig explains why Parma Police and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor tried to criminalize social media satireand how the satirist could win compensation for the legal overreach., "Is the sheriff a victim or stooge, do we really need front license plates, and is Mike Dewine soul-searching or playing politics on executions – This Week in the CLE," 2 Aug. 2019 In his letter, Barnes writes the U.S. Senate hasn't taken any action to criminalize foreign meddling in our elections. Dallas News, "Letters - Floyd McLendon, Ken Paxton, John Ratcliffe, U.S. budget deal, foreign meddling, Saudi arms deal,," 2 Aug. 2019 Then in 1986, Congress again expanded the law to criminalize noncommercial exploitation, such as transporting children for private child pornography, whether or not the production was for commercial purposes. Danny Cevallos, NBC News, "R. Kelly facing federal charges because his alleged sex crimes involve interstate activity," 14 July 2019 Even as the hip-hop era subsided, and the forces of financialization took over the city, the campaign to criminalize and stigmatize graffiti soldiered on. Daisy Alioto, The New Republic, "How Graffiti Became Gentrified," 19 June 2019 Part of the reason, according to experts who study the topic, is there is no analogue to federal laws that criminalize support for foreign terror groups. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "America’s mass shootings are a political choice," 6 Aug. 2019 Elizabeth Warren, for example, came out in support of some measures in his proposal, including repealing a decades-old law that criminalized unauthorized border crossings. Vera Bergengruen/miami, Time, "Why the First Democratic Debates Will Force 2020 Candidates to Get Serious About Immigration Policy," 25 June 2019 Although Kenya struck down the change to the law that criminalizes homosexuality in May -- and remains a deeply conservative and religious society -- its courts has shown some independence in recent years regarding LGBTQ matters. Kara Fox, CNN, "Botswana scraps gay sex laws in big victory for LGBTQ rights in Africa," 11 June 2019 Botswana, like more than half of the countries that criminalize homosexuality, inherited its law from Victorian England. The Christian Science Monitor, "The consciousness of Love, wherever we are," 11 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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Statistics for criminalize

Last Updated

4 Oct 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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