dis·​ci·​pline | \ ˈdi-sə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio) \

Definition of discipline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
3 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
4 : a field of study
5 : a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity
6 obsolete : instruction


disciplined; disciplining

Definition of discipline (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character
2 : to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control
3a : to bring (a group) under control discipline troops
b : to impose order upon serious writers discipline and refine their writing styles

Other Words from discipline


disciplinal \ ˈdi-​sə-​plə-​nᵊl How to pronounce discipline (audio) \ adjective


discipliner noun

Choose the Right Synonym for discipline


punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing. punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing. punished for stealing chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation. chastised his son for neglecting his studies castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure. an editorial castigating the entire city council chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued. chastened by a landslide election defeat discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control. parents must discipline their children correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender. the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer

teach, instruct, educate, train, discipline, school mean to cause to acquire knowledge or skill. teach applies to any manner of imparting information or skill so that others may learn. taught us a lot about our planet instruct suggests methodical or formal teaching. instructs raw recruits in military drill educate implies development of the mind. more things than formal schooling serve to educate a person train stresses instruction and drill with a specific end in view. trained foreign pilots to operate the new aircraft discipline implies training in habits of order and precision. a disciplined mind school implies training or disciplining especially in what is hard to master. schooled the horse in five gaits

The Root and Meanings of Discipline

Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple (albeit by way of a Late Latin sense-shift to “a follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime”). Given that several meanings of discipline deal with study, governing one’s behavior, and instruction, one might assume that the word’s first meaning in English had to do with education. In fact, the earliest known use of discipline appears to be punishment-related; it first was used in the 13th century to refer to chastisement of a religious nature, such as self-flagellation.

Examples of discipline in a Sentence

Noun Sir Robert Peel is credited with creating the first modern police force, the bobbies, in London, in 1829, but the transformation of law enforcement, and especially forensic science, into a professional discipline was a haphazard affair. — Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, 7 May 2007 Pragmatism became America's most important contribution to the life of the mind in the 20th century. Filtered through scores of later interpreters, it percolated across a broad segment of academic culture and influenced disciplines as diverse as literary criticism and legal theory. — Theo Anderson, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2007 So the next fall I went to Hampshire College and began studying under Herbert Bernstein. Without him, I would never have become a scientist. He shamed me into doing the hard work necessary to be able not just to talk about math and physics but to calculate. Without that discipline, my story would have been very different … — Lee Smolin, Curious Minds, (2004) 2005 He stood erect, his bearing patrician, his dress impeccable. His face was stern and his pale eyes unsmiling behind his trifocals, like a man who had been called from important duties in the principal's office to administer discipline to an unruly classroom. — Nick Taylor, Laser, 2000 The teacher has a hard time maintaining discipline in the classroom. The troops were praised for their dedication and discipline. Some parents feel that the school's principal has been too harsh in meting out discipline. Keeping a journal is a good discipline for a writer. Verb The Army disciplined seven men for the incident, penalties ranging from pay-cuts and loss of rank to dismissal from the Rangers and return to the rank-and-file Army. — Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated, 11 Sept. 2006 Volunteers have to undergo a program to discipline the mind and cleanse the soul. — Aparism Ghosh, Time, 4 July 2005 The teacher then took me to the principal's office. There, the principal attempted to discipline me with an old Catholic school technique called "paddling" … — Lalo Gomez, Undoing Time, 2001 She was disciplined for misbehaving in class. He seems unwilling or unable to discipline his children. I'm trying to discipline myself to eat less. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Black students who organized the protest were suspended for five days, but non-black student organizers did not face any discipline. Melissa Noel, Essence, 18 May 2022 Because students worked with the school's administration to plan the protest to ensure it was done safely, no students will face discipline, Callahan said. Krista Johnson, The Courier-Journal, 12 May 2022 Those who refuse the vaccine can face discipline up to being discharged from the service. John Seewer, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Apr. 2022 However, Shoaf said in the news release that any student found with a weapon or look-alike weapon on school district property could face discipline, up to and including possible expulsion. Olivia Mitchell, cleveland, 24 Mar. 2022 Bizon, who is in his first Senate term after serving four years in the House, will not face legislative discipline. David Eggert, Detroit Free Press, 24 Mar. 2022 Watson, 26, recently was traded to the Cleveland Browns by the Houston Texans and still could face discipline from the NFL even though he has not been criminally charged. Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2022 Practitioners who violate the law would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and face discipline from the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 19 Mar. 2022 Officers who fail to do so will be required first to undergo training and will face increasingly severe discipline for subsequent violations. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The inspector general could then make recommendations to the Police Officers Standards and Training Council on whether to discipline an officer or supervisor. Jessica Bravo, Hartford Courant, 26 Apr. 2022 That’s not unusual, Tovar says: Parents often take alternate views on issues including how and when to discipline, divisions of labor, and even smaller stuff like the proper way to pack the diaper bag. Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2022 The experience of playing the soft-voiced Mrs. Doubtfire teaches Daniel how to discipline his children and himself — how to listen, how to partner, how to parent. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 5 Dec. 2021 The group proposed stronger independent oversight of how police discipline their own. Dallas News, 10 Sep. 2021 Marchand has already missed two games since his incident with Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristian Jarry led the NHL Department of Player Safety to discipline him for the second time this season. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 14 Feb. 2022 The Academy's Board of Governors has the power to discipline members who violate their code of conduct through a vote for suspension or expulsion from the Academy. Chloe Melas, CNN, 28 Mar. 2022 These are the most trusted members on the roster, the voice of the locker room with the power to discipline their peers while serving as a de facto liaison with the coaching staff. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, 25 Mar. 2022 The district denied Edmiston’s request to discipline the principal who handled the case, noting that he and other principals had since been retrained in how to investigate student allegations. NBC News, 8 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discipline.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of discipline


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for discipline


Middle English, "chastisement, system of ordered conduct, instruction, branch of learning," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin disciplīna "teaching, instruction, branch of study, orderly conduct based on moral training" (Medieval Latin, "chastisement, scourging"), from discipulus "pupil, learner" + -īna, suffix denoting a place or practice (from noun derivative of feminine of -īnus -ine entry 1) — more at disciple


Middle English disciplinen "to subject to chastisement, educate," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French discipliner, borrowed from Late Latin disciplīnāre "to teach" (Medieval Latin, "to punish, scourge"), derivative of Latin disciplīna "teaching, discipline entry 1"

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The first known use of discipline was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discipline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for discipline


dis·​ci·​pline | \ ˈdi-sə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio) \

Kids Definition of discipline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : strict training that corrects or strengthens "Boys need discipline," he said.
3 : habits and ways of acting that are gotten through practice At this point in the act the penguins always forgot their discipline— Richard {amp} Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper's Penguins
4 : control that is gained by insisting that rules be followed The teacher tried to maintain discipline.


disciplined; disciplining

Kids Definition of discipline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to punish as a way to bring about good behavior The principal disciplined the troublemakers.
2 : to train in self-control or obedience The diet disciplines overeaters.
3 : to bring under control discipline troops

More from Merriam-Webster on discipline

Nglish: Translation of discipline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discipline for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about discipline


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