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 league and union agreed in the 2020 CBA that a disciplinary officer would determine whether a player violated the personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline. Rob Maaddi, ajc, 1 Aug. 2022 Rose noted that in Massachusetts, Black girls are greater than four times more likely to face school discipline than their White peers. Anne Branigin, Washington Post, 29 July 2022 Many of the officers did not face any discipline and were instead promoted by city officials, including Weber, the lawsuit says. Ashley Luthern, Journal Sentinel, 28 July 2022 Four Border Patrol agents face discipline over the confrontation last year. New York Times, 8 July 2022 All these delays by both the CIRB and the chief matter in part because California law gives departments only one year to impose discipline once officials learn of an incident, though that timeline is paused during a criminal investigation. Laurence Du Sault, ProPublica, 7 July 2022 Robinson is expected to rule before the Browns open training camp late next month on whether the 26-year-old violated the league’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline. BostonGlobe.com, 2 July 2022 Previously, Goodell had the authority to impose discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy. Rob Maaddi, Chicago Tribune, 1 July 2022 The police commissioner or other agency head then could impose harsher discipline than the committee recommends, but cannot stray below their recommendation. Lea Skene, Baltimore Sun, 28 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would seek to discipline malingering officers. Deanna Paul, WSJ, 19 Sep. 2021 Authorities said Thursday the department unanimously decided not to discipline the officers who were at the scene after leadership evaluated the investigation’s findings. Kelli Smith, Dallas News, 15 Apr. 2021 Parents or others who believe the teachers are in violation may sue school districts in court or file complaints with the state, which may discipline teachers. Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2021 The Vatican report contained evidence that three successive pontiffs— St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis—failed for years to discipline Mr. McCarrick. Sam Schechner, WSJ, 5 Oct. 2021 Residents have largely applauded the decision to discipline Arredondo, but say more needs to be done to regain the community’s trust. Alicia Victoria Lozano, NBC News, 23 June 2022 But in January, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas ruled that the Navy may not discipline or discriminate against 36 SEALS and other special forces who refused to be vaccinated citing religious reasons. Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2022 Alexandria’s city council has voted to create a civilian board that has the power to conduct independent investigations of police conduct — but not to discipline officers. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2021 An Illinois law passed in 2015 prohibits schools from using fines to discipline students. Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune, 29 Apr. 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"

Learn More About discipline

Time Traveler for discipline

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near discipline




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for discipline

Last Updated

14 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Discipline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!