pe·​nal·​ize | \ ˈpē-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce penalize (audio) , ˈpe- How to pronounce penalize (audio) \
penalized; penalizing

Definition of penalize

transitive verb

1 : to inflict a penalty on
2 : to put at a serious disadvantage

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from penalize

penalization \ ˈpē-​nə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce penalization (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for penalize


castigate, chasten, chastise, correct, discipline, punish


excuse, pardon, spare

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of penalize in a Sentence

The company was penalized for not paying taxes. The hockey player was penalized for holding. This law would unfairly penalize immigrants.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The Trump administration is currently evaluating whether to penalize French wine and other goods in response to France’s tax on digital companies like Inc., Facebook Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Bryce Baschuk, Fortune, "EU Luxury Brands Face WTO-Approved U.S. Tariffs," 16 Sep. 2019 The July 2019 fare hikes continue to unfairly penalize cash-paying riders by charging 50 cents more than the CharlieCard fare for the same Green Line ride., "Should the MBTA institute a discount fare program for low income riders?," 31 Aug. 2019 Now, women in Japan have a new way to penalize their assailants: by stamping them with invisible ink. Brianna Holt, Quartz, "Japan needs more than anti-groping stamps to fix its sexual harassment problem," 30 Aug. 2019 By restricting access to American investment, the United States was able to penalize countries that joined the Soviet sphere. Benjamin Studebaker, The New Republic, "The Real Stakes of Trump’s Trade War With China," 27 Aug. 2019 For years, leaders in the fight against climate change have sought to use international trade as a weapon, pushing world leaders to penalize countries that aren’t stemming warming emissions by restricting trade with them on the global market. Justin Worland, Time, "How Trump Unwittingly Paved the Way for a Climate Change Breakthrough at the G-7," 26 Aug. 2019 Other efforts include bills to penalize companies for data breaches or improve the diversity of corporate boards. Jena Mcgregor, Washington Post, "The lobbying group for powerful CEOs is rethinking how it defines a corporation’s purpose," 19 Aug. 2019 The policy, which is set to take effect in October, is expected to disproportionately penalize immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean; immigrants from Europe and Canada are less likely to be affected. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, "America’s Exclusionary Past and Present and the Judgment of History," 17 Aug. 2019 But, at least for Lyft, those images aren’t generally used to penalize misbehaving riders. Andrew Kenney, The Denver Post, "Why do scooters crash so often? Tiny tires don’t help," 17 Aug. 2019

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

See More

First Known Use of penalize

1888, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about penalize

Statistics for penalize

Last Updated

12 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for penalize

The first known use of penalize was in 1888

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for penalize



English Language Learners Definition of penalize

: to punish (someone or something) for breaking a rule or a law
: to give (someone) an unfair disadvantage


pe·​nal·​ize | \ ˈpē-nə-ˌlīz How to pronounce penalize (audio) , ˈpe-\
penalized; penalizing

Kids Definition of penalize

: to give a penalty to You'll be penalized for cheating.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on penalize

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with penalize

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for penalize

Spanish Central: Translation of penalize

Nglish: Translation of penalize for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of penalize for Arabic Speakers

Comments on penalize

What made you want to look up penalize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


friendly or mild

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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