discipline

1 of 2

noun

dis·​ci·​pline ˈdi-sə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio)
1
a
: control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b
: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
2
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
disciplinal adjective

discipline

2 of 2

verb

disciplined; disciplining

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
3
a
: to bring (a group) under control
discipline troops
b
: to impose order upon
serious writers discipline and refine their writing styles
discipliner noun

Did you know?

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.

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

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
Small classes of six students experience a hands-on emphasis on various disciplines from corsetry, leatherwork and tailoring to millinery, fabric dyeing and costume cutting. Cathy Whitlock, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Feb. 2024 Moreover, this routine instills discipline, a crucial trait for CPA candidates juggling multiple responsibilities. Bryce Welker, Miami Herald, 21 Feb. 2024 Show discipline when temptation kicks in, and don’t be afraid to break away from the crowd and do your own thing. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, 21 Feb. 2024 Ideal candidates would be kids who may excel in STEM disciplines, vocational schoolwork, English and other languages. Melanie Laughman, The Enquirer, 19 Feb. 2024 The foundation of this program will be built on discipline, respect and enthusiasm. Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, 19 Feb. 2024 Police departments handle most investigations of their own officers’ crashes, raising conflict of interest concerns and questions about officers who faced no discipline. USA TODAY, 18 Feb. 2024 In Beijing in 2008, Hoy was at the peak of his powers, winning three gold medals across the three separate disciplines. Ben Morse, CNN, 17 Feb. 2024 However, if the formula can be spelled out, then that means anyone can crack the code by putting in the hours, grit, and discipline. Puja Bhola Rios, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024
Verb
Police records reviewed by The Star cited one case in which an officer was disciplined. Bill Lukitsch, Kansas City Star, 25 Feb. 2024 Whether pacing your study, focusing on MCQs, or integrating study into your daily routine, the key is to stay disciplined, avoid burnout, and remember that understanding the material is more crucial than memorizing it. Bryce Welker, Miami Herald, 24 Feb. 2024 Prediction markets are one of the untapped opportunities of our time, with the potential to radically reshape the social landscape and use market forces to discipline decision-makers like never before. Korok Ray, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 Some doctors following guidance by Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance or America’s Frontline Doctors have been disciplined or face the possibility of discipline from state medical boards alleging substandard medical care. Lauren Weber, Washington Post, 21 Feb. 2024 That information can only be given to the parents/guardians of the student being disciplined. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 21 Feb. 2024 The board declined to discipline him, citing insufficient evidence, according to case documents. Rob Kuznia, CNN, 14 Feb. 2024 On March 6, 2021, Ryan and I published a detailed account of Girardi’s dealings with the State Bar of California, which regulates and disciplines attorneys. Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Six attorneys from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — three suspended and three essentially disbarred —make up the South Florida representation on the monthly Florida Bar list of lawyers disciplined by the state Supreme Court. David J. Neal, Miami Herald, 5 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'discipline.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

Verb

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"

First Known Use

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near discipline

Cite this Entry

“Discipline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

discipline

1 of 2 noun
dis·​ci·​pline ˈdis-ə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio)
1
: a field of study : subject
2
: strict training that corrects or strengthens mental ability or moral character
3
4
: control gained by enforcing obedience or order
trying to maintain discipline
5
: a system of rules governing conduct

discipline

2 of 2 verb
disciplined; disciplining
1
: to punish or penalize for the sake of discipline
2
: to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control
3
: to bring under control
discipline troops
discipliner noun

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