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

Each year, thousands of migrants like Gabriela apply for asylum in the U.S., saying that they have been persecuted due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership in a social group. Abigail Abrams, Time, "President Trump Wants to Dramatically Limit People Seeking Asylum in the U.S.," 12 June 2019 What Trump's tweets read like is someone who has fixated on the idea that he is being unfairly persecuted by people who have never liked him and will do anything to keep him from being successful. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Donald Trump's growing Russia obsession, in 14 Memorial Day weekend tweets," 29 May 2018 When intellectuals did emerge—like Copernicus, in the vey late Middle Ages, who claimed that earth revolved around the sun—they were dismissed, persecuted, or, at best, ignored. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Notre Dame Is a Cruel Metaphor for Our World Right Now," 25 Apr. 2019 In Kusa, as elsewhere in Russia, people vacillate over Stalin’s legacy, including those whose family members were persecuted. James Marson, WSJ, "The Case of the Disappearing Stalin Statue Roils a Russian City," 22 Oct. 2018 Her victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary for a House seat from the immigrant-rich Minneapolis area depended heavily on support from people who feel persecuted in Trump's America and voters who empathize with them. Steve Karnowski, Fox News, "Victory offers Muslim candidate new platform to oppose Trump," 15 Aug. 2018 At home, Beijing persecutes members of the Uighur minority for practicing their faith. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, "China Oppresses Muslims at Home, Countenances Terror Abroad," 21 Mar. 2019 For example, people who entered Hungary from a country where they were not persecuted or threatened with persecution would be ineligible. Fox News, "Hungarian govt looks to Constitution to keep immigrants out," 29 May 2018 And, of course, the one-party state persecutes the Church and imprisons human-rights advocates. Benedict Kiely, National Review, "Pope Francis Gets His ‘Mess’," 9 Feb. 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

16 Jun 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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incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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