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

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 At the Christmas Mass shortly before his death, Bishop Yeung called on his flock to pray for the persecuted underground Catholics in mainland China. Violet Law, The Seattle Times, "Advocate of China-Vatican dialogue named Hong Kong bishop," 7 Jan. 2019 Gang members in El Salvador had killed her husband, a sergeant in the military, and persecuted her sons. Lomi Kriel, San Antonio Express-News, "ACLU challenges Trump administration practice of separating migrants and their children," 9 Mar. 2018 People in Germany did not wake up one day and decide that persecuting minorities was a bad idea. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Midterm Election Results Explained," 7 Nov. 2018 The case has highlighted how Indonesia's blasphemy law has become a tool for Islamic hardliners to persecute followers of minority religions. Fox News, "Indonesia blasphemy woman endures cramped cell, bad food," 27 Sep. 2018 The album’s stark cover, with the artist teary-eyed with his hand over his mouth, is his reaction to black people who have been persecuted and killed. Gerrick D. Kennedy, latimes.com, "How introspective hip-hop artist Roy Kinsey turned trauma into triumph," 6 June 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

7 Apr 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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