per·​se·​cu·​tion | \ ˌpər-si-ˈkyü-shən \

Definition of persecution

1 : the act or practice of persecuting especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook
2 : the condition of being persecuted, harassed, or annoyed

Examples of persecution in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Once a serene landscape of fields and gardens, the neighborhood was settled by French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution during the 17th century. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "Where to Find London’s Hidden French Side," 7 Jan. 2019 An attorney for the county says the cross is one of a dozen symbols on the seal and was meant to represent the county's original settlers who were fleeing religious persecution. Fox News, "County says cross on county seal is historical not religious," 7 Sep. 2018 Advocates counter that international law guarantees the rights of people fleeing persecution to seek asylum, and there's nothing frivolous about it. Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN, "How one month reshaped the US immigration landscape," 3 June 2018 Related: Iraqis have fled persecution under Saddam Hussein, during the Iraq War and the subsequent rise of the Islamic State group. Dan Sewell, Detroit Free Press, "Block Iraqi deportations, ACLU attorneys urge federal appeals court," 25 Apr. 2018 And as Johannes flees the city in an attempt to escape persecution, his sister Marin refuses to say goodbye, crumbling under the weight of her own shameful secret. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "The Miniaturist Star Anya Taylor-Joy Talks Marin's Secret and This Episode's Most Shocking Scene," 17 Sep. 2018 Like refugees, asylum seekers must prove that they have been singled out for persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Maria Cristina Garcia, WSJ, "How the American Asylum Bureaucracy Grew," 29 June 2018 World Refugee Day this year provided a sobering reminder of how easily the world’s great powers can turn their backs on those fleeing war, persecution and poverty. Alf Dubs, Time, "I Fled the Nazis as a Child Refugee. Trump's Border Policy Echoes Europe's Darkest Days," 21 June 2018 Asylum is for those fleeing persecution because of their religion, political beliefs or membership in a social group, Sessions said, not fleeing crime. Robert Moore,, "At the US border, asylum seekers fleeing violence are told to come back later," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'persecution.' 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 persecution

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about persecution

Share persecution

Statistics for persecution

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for persecution

The first known use of persecution was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for persecution


per·​se·​cu·​tion | \ ˌpər-si-ˈkyü-shən \

Kids Definition of persecution

1 : the act of continually treating in a cruel and harmful way
2 : the state of being continually treated in a cruel and harmful way



Legal Definition of persecution

: punishment or harassment usually of a severe nature on the basis of race, religion, or political opinion in one's country of origin claimed persecution and sought asylum

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on persecution

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with persecution

Spanish Central: Translation of persecution

Nglish: Translation of persecution for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of persecution for Arabic Speakers

Comments on persecution

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


to gather or build up little by little

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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