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 persecutee (audio) \ noun
persecutive \ ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tiv How to pronounce persecutive (audio) \ adjective
persecutor \ ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tər How to pronounce persecutor (audio) \ noun
persecutory \ ˈpər-​si-​kyü-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce persecutory (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

Romani are a historically persecuted, internationally dispersed people concentrated in Europe. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Gypsy Den café changes its name out of respect for Romani people, who find ‘G-word’ offensive," 26 July 2019 Nigeria’s Shias say they are being persecuted by the country’s larger Muslim group, the Sunnis. Washington Post, "Many killed in Nigerian protests for release of Shia leader," 23 July 2019 The father sought asylum, by the way, not because he was persecuted but because that was his only hope of coming here legally. Steve Chapman, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Julián Castro knows criminalizing immigration is a failure," 28 June 2019 Alec was an Evangelical Christian leader in his community and was targeted and persecuted by the MS-13 gang. Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Despite asylum win, government may return migrant to Mexico again," 7 Aug. 2019 Under the country’s constitution, indigenous groups, who have long been persecuted by cocaine smugglers and others, are entitled to special rights such as collective land ownership and self-governance. The Economist, "Indigenous Colombians fear losing their hallucinogenic brews," 14 June 2019 Of course Protestant churches had persecuted many Catholics, but at this point in history England (and the Netherlands) had much to fear from France, and were also each far more tolerant than Catholic countries such as France and Spain. James P. Sutton, National Review, "In Defense of the Glorious Revolution," 19 July 2019 The immediately succeeding lot were primarily students, political activists, like Lala Lajpat Rai, and others being persecuted by the UK taking shelter in the US. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Indian immigrants have it bad in Donald Trump’s America. But the early 1900s were worse," 16 July 2019 The Ethiopians are not alone: Many African migrants and refugees living in Israel feel consistently persecuted, surely leading to a mounting sense of anger against the state. Alex Ward, Vox, "Violent protests erupt in Israel over police shooting of unarmed Ethiopian teen," 2 July 2019

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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Statistics for persecute

Last Updated

25 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for persecute

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

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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

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Comments on persecute

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