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 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes people’s right to asylum in other countries if they are persecuted. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "What does it mean to be a refugee?," 15 Mar. 2019 That the parenting police, childless experts and the self proclaimed perfect parents will persecute me. Elyse Roth, Redbook, "Mom Posts Heartfelt Warning to Parents After Toddler Accidentally Overdoses On Medicine," 18 May 2017 His selection of Lionel Trilling’s letters, Life in Culture, was published in September. (December 2018) Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938) was persecuted for his poetry and died in a transit camp near Vladivostok, Russia. John Sedgwick, The New York Review of Books, "Contents," 14 Jan. 2016 And the government has often been accused of persecuting Shiites in Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni. Megan Specia, New York Times, "Saudi Teenager Faces Death Sentence for Acts When He Was 10," 9 June 2019 And the government has often been accused of persecuting Shiites in Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni. Megan Specia, BostonGlobe.com, "Saudi teenager faces death sentence for acts when he was 10," 9 June 2019 The Straight Pride Parade parallels similar calls by other majority groups that see themselves as persecuted. The Washington Post, The Denver Post, "It’s LGBT pride month, but three guys in Boston want a permit for a “Straight Pride” parade," 5 June 2019 The Straight Pride Parade parallels similar calls by other majority groups that see themselves as persecuted. oregonlive.com, "It’s LGBT pride month, but three guys in Boston want a permit for a ‘Straight Pride’ parade," 4 June 2019 The Spanish Inquisition began under her rule around 1480, persecuting Muslims and Jews who would not convert to Catholicism. National Geographic, "To seize power in Spain, Queen Isabella had to play it smart," 28 Mar. 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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Statistics for persecute

Last Updated

14 Jul 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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