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 The Modi government says the measure is meant to help persecuted religious minorities who entered India illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Niha Masih, Washington Post, "Protests sweeping India emerge as significant challenge for Modi," 20 Dec. 2019 The government justifies its exclusion of Muslim refugees by saying they cannot be persecuted by states that proclaim Islam as their official religion. The Economist, "India passes a bill purporting to help refugees. In fact, it seeks to hurt Muslims," 11 Dec. 2019 India's government says the law is a humanitarian measure to help persecuted religious minorities from its three neighbouring countries -- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Tara John, CNN, "Has India's Narendra Modi gone too far with controversial new citizenship law?," 18 Dec. 2019 One group also carried a message referring to China’s persecuted Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "The NBA may have just thrown Hong Kong’s protesters a new lifeline," 10 Oct. 2019 Fraser’s main explanation is Cold War anti-communism, which gave conservatives the chance to press radicals to the margins or persecute them outright. Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic, "The Remaking of Class," 27 June 2018 Despite the fact that over 6,000 have been arrested, and many have been persecuted, Hong Kong people still fight back. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Behind huge Hong Kong march, a dramatic show of public support," 9 Dec. 2019 But today the habit of persecuting the Jews, brothers and sisters, is here reborn. Jta Staff, sun-sentinel.com, "Pope Francis in unscripted remarks denounces rise of anti-Semitism," 13 Nov. 2019 Her people are Yazidis, a minority in northern Iraq that is poor, persecuted and bound by faith to its revered Mount Sinjar. Scott Pelley, CBS News, "Nadia Murad's vow to take ISIS to court, and her heartbreaking return home," 13 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for persecute

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for persecute

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Persecute.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/persecuting. Accessed 25 January 2020.

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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

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Comments on persecute

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