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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Important dialogue with Bashar Warda, the Archbishop of Erbil, about @POTUS' commitment to directly assist persecuted Christians & religious minorities in Iraq. Yeganeh Torbati, ProPublica, "How Mike Pence’s Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Groups," 6 Nov. 2019 And then what would the persecuted do, having agreed to dispense with the guardrails? Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, "The Post-Liberals’ Incoherence," 20 June 2019 Once an icon to many Africans, Mr. Mugabe grew increasingly despotic, persecuting the Ndebele minority, wresting farmland from its white owners, and driving the economy to ruin. New York Times, "A Music Genre Grows in Zimbabwe, Fueled by Rage Against Authority," 7 Sep. 2019 Power uses her position to agitate for refugees, rape victims, persecuted LGBT populations, political prisoners and oppressed minorities everywhere. Washington Post, "Can an uncompromising activist keep her integrity while working in the White House?," 6 Sep. 2019 The cruelty of how the US persecutes those who have broken its laws is something many Europeans marvel at. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, "The world wonders what's happened to America," 10 Aug. 2019 Social scientists and philosophers have long noted people’s aversion to otherness of any kind, and the ubiquitous tendency to scapegoat and persecute minorities that differed from one’s own group in race, ethnicity or religion. Arie Kruglanski, The Conversation, "Are Syrian refugees a danger to the West?," 19 July 2019 The merchant employs three jealous sisters, who delight in persecuting Rhodopis. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: The Thrill of Imaginative Play," 12 July 2019 However, the technology is also posing privacy concerns and ethical challenges, as China shifts to using it to profile groups such as the country’s persecuted largely Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority. Jane Li, Quartz, "China’s obsession with looking good is filtering into facial-recognition payments," 3 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about persecute

Time Traveler for persecute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for persecute

Last Updated

17 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Persecute.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/persecutes. Accessed 21 November 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for persecute

persecute

verb
How to pronounce persecute (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on persecute

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

WORD OF THE DAY

strength of mind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • pasta resembling wheels with spokes
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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