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

Normally, migrants requesting asylum must pass an initial screening called a credible fear interview to establish that they will be persecuted if they are forced to return to their home. Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘Nobody knows what this means': Trump’s new asylum restrictions bring confusion to San Diego," 12 Sep. 2019 After Marechera returned to independent Zimbabwe, he was harassed and persecuted by state security for his refusal to join the system, or his public rebukes directed towards the status quo. Tinashe Mushakavanhu, Quartz Africa, "The Zimbabwean writer who was Robert Mugabe’s nemesis," 7 Sep. 2019 Yet these attitudes aren’t merely historical; women continue to be persecuted for witchcraft in the world today. Constance Grady, Vox, "Meet the medieval Welsh poet who wrote odes to her vagina," 17 Aug. 2019 Perpetrators of self-harm or violence toward others may be victims of long-term bullying and may have real or perceived feelings of being picked on or persecuted by others. Nicole Hockley, Quartz, "Four out of five mass shooters give you the power to stop them," 9 Aug. 2019 Twitch, a live-streaming platform, is only the latest tech company to be targeted by violent people, some of whom claim to be unfairly persecuted by changes in company policies. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "A shooting threat sends police to Twitch headquarters," 7 Aug. 2019 Like other wolves, these animals were hunted and persecuted on a massive scale in the 19th and early 20th century. National Geographic, "Red wolves," 27 July 2019 Romani are a historically persecuted, internationally dispersed people concentrated in Europe. Hillary Davis, Daily Pilot, "Gypsy Den café changes its name out of respect for Romani people, who find ‘G-word’ offensive," 26 July 2019 Nigeria’s Shias say they are being persecuted by the country’s larger Muslim group, the Sunnis. Washington Post, "Many killed in Nigerian protests for release of Shia leader," 23 July 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

7 Oct 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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