persecute

verb
per·​se·​cute | \ ˈpər-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce persecute (audio) \
persecuted; persecuting

Definition of persecute

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

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Other Words from persecute

persecutee \ ˌpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​ˈtē How to pronounce persecute (audio) \ noun
persecutive \ ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tiv How to pronounce persecute (audio) \ adjective
persecutor \ ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tər How to pronounce persecute (audio) \ noun
persecutory \ ˈpər-​si-​kyü-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce persecute (audio) , -​ˌkyü-​tə-​rē \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Prosecute vs. Persecute

Take care to distinguish between prosecuted and persecuted, although we sincerely hope that neither word applies to you. Persecute typically has a small range of meanings, such as “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict.” Although the word is occasionally found in dialectal use to mean “prosecute,” many usage guides consider this to be an error. Prosecute is generally found today in a legal context (“to bring legal action against for redress or punishment of a crime or violation of law”), although the word may also be used to mean “to follow to the end” or “to engage in.” If someone is prosecuted they are being tried in a court of law; if they are persecuted they are being targeted and harassed.

Examples of persecute in a Sentence

The country's leaders relentlessly persecuted those who fought against the regime. They were persecuted for their beliefs.
Recent Examples on the Web The Taliban has been known to persecute Christians under their regime, but that is not what is occurring in this viral photo. Devon Link, USA TODAY, 18 Aug. 2021 In short, Khan has transformed the FTC into a predatory power that enforces nebulous standards, granting her total discretion in choosing whom to persecute. Robert H. Bork Jr., National Review, 14 July 2021 The mandate was a part of a larger goal to persecute Europe's Jewish population by stigmatizing, segregating and eventually preparing them for deportation, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Chelsey Cox, USA TODAY, 1 July 2021 They are not being used to prosecute genuine claims of blasphemy but are instead used to persecute religious minorities for daring to live in accordance with their religious beliefs. Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes, 26 May 2021 Activists hope that drawing attention to those witch trials as miscarriages of justice could affect the behavior of those who still persecute women and girls as witches. Valentina Pop, WSJ, 4 Mar. 2021 Soros is paying Antifa to usher in the New World Order, which will persecute Christians and Republicans so Jews and socialists can finally rule the globe. Cheri Lucas Rowlands, Longreads, 25 Dec. 2020 Given the history of Western countries demanding special privileges for missionaries, Christianity was seen as an alien and threatening faith, and the Communist Party was quick to expel missionaries and persecute local Christians after 1949. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 21 Dec. 2020 International watchdogs and human-rights activists have said such ethnicity-detection systems could be used to track and persecute minorities. Washington Post, 12 Dec. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of persecute

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Time Traveler for persecute

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The first known use of persecute was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near persecute

per second per second

persecute

persecutingly

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Last Updated

21 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Persecute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/persecute. Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for persecute

persecute

verb

English Language Learners Definition of persecute

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

persecute

verb
per·​se·​cute | \ ˈpər-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce persecute (audio) \
persecuted; persecuting

Kids Definition of persecute

: to treat continually in a cruel and harmful way

More from Merriam-Webster on persecute

Nglish: Translation of persecute for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of persecute for Arabic Speakers

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