persecute

verb
per·​se·​cute | \ˈpər-si-ˌkyüt \
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 \ noun
persecutive \ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tiv \ adjective
persecutor \ˈpər-​si-​ˌkyü-​tər \ noun
persecutory \ˈpər-​si-​kyü-​ˌtȯr-​ē, -​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

Mian's abrupt resignation came as a major blow to the 500,000-strong Ahmadi community, which already feels persecuted and afraid. Fox News, "Pakistan's Ahmadis fearful as leaders bow to extremists," 28 Sep. 2018 Rulers don’t typically make mass announcements when minorities are being persecuted up to and including death. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Stripping U.S. Citizens of Their Passports Is a Precursor to Genocide," 7 Sep. 2018 People may seek asylum in the United States if they have been persecuted in their home countries or fear persecution there based on their race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social or political group. NBC News, "They came seeking asylum. Now they want their children back.," 28 June 2018 The fact that other businesses denied that order but were not punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was evidence, according to the majority opinion, that Masterpiece Cakeshop was being unfairly persecuted for their religion. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Supreme Court Rules in Favor of White Jesus," 4 June 2018 Turn the other cheek, love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute you, even unto death. Marilyn Yalom, WSJ, "‘Evolution of Desire’ Review: Who Was René Girard?," 1 June 2018 And Matthew O'Hara, a lawyer for the other former detainee, said his client would likely be persecuted or tortured in Tajikistan, which revoked his citizenship. Charlie Savage, Declan Walsh And Dionne Searcey, miamiherald, "Deported to Libya, ex-Gitmo detainees vanish. Will others meet a similar fate?," 24 Apr. 2018 Like just about every other country in the ’60s, the former Soviet Union was home to a hippie culture of peace, love and brotherhood — when it wasn’t being persecuted by the Soviet state. Carolina A. Miranda, latimes.com, "Datebook: Shots of old Route 66, dreamlike paintings and garments fashioned from paper," 12 July 2018 President Donald Trump is the most notably persecuted, at least on his own Twitter feed. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "These politicians are using the 'witch hunt' defense," 18 Apr. 2018

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

15 Dec 2018

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 \
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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