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 Plus, isn’t participation in sports not just about the medals but about the lessons in discipline, teamwork, grit and fortitude? Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 23 June 2022 For three hours, Patient No. 10 used every bit of self-discipline in her possession not to turn for comfort to TikTok, knowing that its spangly music and trippy voices might bother the women around her, or provoke more age-appraising stares. Stephania Taladrid, The New Yorker, 13 June 2022 The group prides itself on discipline, secrecy and, above all, carefully curating its public image, Squire said. Will Carless, USA TODAY, 13 June 2022 The discipline of creating this change summary forces you to examine all your assumptions and build your plan for change on a solid foundation of understanding. Neil Bedwell, Forbes, 7 June 2022 The program focuses on character building, self-discipline, leadership and a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 May 2022 The delay in confronting the shooter — who was inside the school for more than an hour — could lead to discipline, lawsuits and even criminal charges against police. al, 28 May 2022 The delay in confronting the shooter — who was inside the school for more than an hour — could lead to discipline, lawsuits and even criminal charges against police. Stefanie Dazio, BostonGlobe.com, 28 May 2022 The delay in confronting the shooter — who was inside the school for more than an hour — could lead to discipline, lawsuits and even criminal charges against police. Stefanie Dazio, ajc, 28 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb An Illinois law passed in 2015 prohibits schools from using fines to discipline students. Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, 29 Apr. 2022 An Illinois law passed in 2015 prohibits schools from using fines to discipline students. Jennifer Smith Richards, ProPublica, 29 Apr. 2022 Second, Democrats basically agree with conservatives about the need to discipline and starve the working class. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 7 June 2021 Parents who choose to care for and discipline their children truly love them and are following the Lord's command. Elizabeth Berry, Woman's Day, 3 May 2022 Criteria for establishing such responsibility include whether senior officials discipline troops who commit crimes. Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2022 Another complaint is that Powers failed to report or discipline one teacher for alleged misconduct and another for inappropriate behavior involving students. Tracy Swartz, Chicago Tribune, 22 Apr. 2022 This is not nearly enough, however, to realize James’s hope to have a moral equivalent of war, or to discipline our own country to fight one. Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic, 23 Mar. 2022 The device would beep at real-time intervals, demanding that the player feed, clean up and even discipline the pet. Michelle Delgado, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Dec. 2021 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

27 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discipline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 28 Jun. 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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