pac·​i·​fy ˈpa-sə-ˌfī How to pronounce pacify (audio)
pacified; pacifying

transitive verb

: to allay the anger or agitation of : soothe
pacify a crying child
: appease, propitiate
tried to pacify the enemy with compromises
: to restore to a tranquil state : settle
made an attempt to pacify the commotion
: to reduce to a submissive state : subdue
forces moved in to pacify the country
pacifiable adjective

Did you know?

Pacify is the oldest of a set of soothing words that floated into English on the buoy of Latin pac- or pax, meaning “peace.” It arrived in the 15th century, and was followed by pacifier and pacific in the subsequent century. These words and other pac-/pax relations have proven useful. While 16th century pacifiers soothed and subdued in general ways, by the turn of the 20th century pacifier was being used with a new meaning referring specifically to a device for a baby to suck on. Also dating to around the turn of the 20th century are pacifist and pacifism. Pay also comes ultimately from this root (by way of Latin pacare, meaning “to pacify”), as does the gentlest of this lexical family, the word peace itself.

Choose the Right Synonym for pacify

pacify, appease, placate, mollify, propitiate, conciliate mean to ease the anger or disturbance of.

pacify suggests a soothing or calming.

pacified by a sincere apology

appease implies quieting insistent demands by making concessions.

appease their territorial ambitions

placate suggests changing resentment or bitterness to goodwill.

a move to placate local opposition

mollify implies soothing hurt feelings or rising anger.

a speech that mollified the demonstrators

propitiate implies averting anger or malevolence especially of a superior being.

propitiated his parents by dressing up

conciliate suggests ending an estrangement by persuasion, concession, or settling of differences.

conciliating the belligerent nations

Examples of pacify in a Sentence

She resigned from her position to pacify her accusers. Their efforts to pacify the nation by force failed. trying to pacify a mob of protesters
Recent Examples on the Web Channing Tatum can beatbox lullabies Less than a year after he was named 2012's Sexiest Man Alive, Tatum became a dad to daughter Everly, and according to his now-ex Jenna Dewan, The Lost City star used some undiscovered talents to pacify his crying infant. Zoey Lyttle, Peoplemag, 2 Nov. 2023 But the changes have done little to pacify its critics at the state and federal level, who contend the company has shirked its responsibility to protect its most vulnerable young users. Naomi Nix, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2023 Pynchon was a realist about the ability of government and industrial elites to pacify workers. WIRED, 22 Oct. 2023 Ukraine was supposed to have been pacified within 10 days. Peter Weber, The Week, 30 Aug. 2023 Biden’s stance on new drilling has been, in essence, a balancing act between pacifying green advocates furious over his decision in March to permit a massive new oilfield in Alaska, and the political reality that high prices at the gas pump tend to be a one-way ticket to a one-term presidency. TIME, 12 Oct. 2023 That statement did little to pacify the public anger, and calls for a boycott of the show continued online in China. Berry Wang, CNN, 25 Aug. 2023 Since the United States could not pacify Afghanistan or Iraq and cannot solve many other global problems, the argument runs, the world must be multipolar. Stephen G. Brooks, Foreign Affairs, 18 Apr. 2023 Saudi Arabia is spending on soccer both to build its global influence and to pacify its population, 70 percent of which is under the age of 35. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English pacifien, from Anglo-French pacifier, from Latin pacificare, from pac-, pax peace

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of pacify was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near pacify

Cite this Entry

“Pacify.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pac·​i·​fy ˈpas-ə-ˌfī How to pronounce pacify (audio)
pacified; pacifying
: to make peaceful or quiet
pacify a crying child
: to restore to a peaceful state : settle, subdue
sent troops to pacify the country

Middle English pacifien "to soothe the anger or disturbance of, make peaceful," from Latin pacificare (same meaning), from pac-, pax "peace" — related to appease, peace

More from Merriam-Webster on pacify

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