verb per·se·cute \ ˈpər-si-ˌkyüt \
Updated on: 25 Feb 2018

Definition of persecute

persecuted; persecuting
transitive verb
1 : to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief
2 : to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (such as attacks, pleas, or importunities) : pester


play \ˌpər-si-ˌkyü-ˈtē\ noun


play \ˈpər-si-ˌkyü-tiv\ adjective


play \ˈpər-si-ˌkyü-tər\ noun


play \ˈpər-si-kyü-ˌtȯr-ē, -ˌkyü-tə-rē\ adjective

Examples of persecute in a Sentence

  1. The country's leaders relentlessly persecuted those who fought against the regime.

  2. They were persecuted for their beliefs.

Recent Examples of persecute from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of persecute

Middle English, from Middle French persecuter, back-formation from persecuteur persecutor, from Late Latin persecutor, from persequi to persecute, from Latin, to pursue, from per- through + sequi to follow — more at sue

Synonym Discussion of persecute

wrong, oppress, persecute, aggrieve mean to injure unjustly or outrageously. wrong implies inflicting injury either unmerited or out of proportion to what one deserves.
    • a penal system that had wronged him
oppress suggests inhumane imposing of burdens one cannot endure or exacting more than one can perform.
    • a people oppressed by a warmongering tyrant
persecute implies a relentless and unremitting subjection to annoyance or suffering.
    • a child persecuted by constant criticism
aggrieve implies suffering caused by an infringement or denial of rights.
    • a legal aid society representing aggrieved minority groups

PERSECUTE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of persecute for English Language Learners

  • : to treat (someone) cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs

  • : to constantly annoy or bother (someone)

PERSECUTE Defined for Kids


verb per·se·cute \ ˈpər-si-ˌkyüt \

Definition of persecute for Students

persecuted; persecuting
: to treat continually in a cruel and harmful way

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