prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Definition of prosecute

transitive verb

1 : to follow to the end : pursue until finished prosecute a war
2 : to engage in : perform
3a : to bring legal action against for redress or punishment of a crime or violation of law
b : to institute legal proceedings with reference to prosecute a claim

intransitive verb

: to institute and carry on a legal suit or prosecution

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Other Words from prosecute

prosecutable \ ˌprä-​sə-​ˈkyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prosecutable (audio) \ adjective

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 prosecute in a Sentence

The store's owner agreed not to prosecute if the boy returned the stolen goods. The case is being prosecuted by the assistant district attorney. She criticized the government for the way it has prosecuted the war.
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Recent Examples on the Web Due to the charity's policies involving not pursuing charges against the elderly, the Fortes were not prosecuted. USA Today, ""I've been dying for 25 years:" How a cop has stalled his child sex abuse trial for decades," 21 Nov. 2019 The Trump administration is wrong to try to prosecute people who are only trying to save lives. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "A volunteer worker who aided migrants in Arizona was acquitted of harboring charges," 20 Nov. 2019 All three have been championed by conservative lawmakers and commentators, who have portrayed them as war heroes unfairly prosecuted for actions taken in the heat and confusion of battle. New York Times, "Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases," 15 Nov. 2019 No high-ranking officials had been prosecuted for corruption. Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, "How Trump’s Emissaries Put Pressure on Ukraine’s New President," 26 Oct. 2019 The numbers are unsurprising for an office that is part of a Justice Department that, under Republican President Donald Trump, has a philosophy that prosecuting more people is a key strategy in reducing crime. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "U.S. attorney in Cleveland touts record number of drug, violent crime charges over past year," 23 Oct. 2019 The shooter, suspected of killing Bolling out of jealousy over his financial success, was never prosecuted. Jay Reeves, Twin Cities, "Trump lynching claim renews pain for kin of actual victims," 23 Oct. 2019 These cases will not be prosecuted, though restitution will still be ordered to be paid. Kelsey Hammon, The Denver Post, "Violent crime rates surged across Boulder County over past 5 years," 19 Oct. 2019 But federal convictions make up a tiny percentage of US crimes; the vast majority of these crimes are prosecuted at the state level. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "Truth is the new dangerous propaganda tool," 18 Oct. 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for prosecute

Middle English, from Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue — more at pursue

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Time Traveler for prosecute

Time Traveler

The first known use of prosecute was in the 15th century

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Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

24 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Prosecute.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prosecutable?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=prosec03. Accessed 6 December 2019.

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More Definitions for prosecute

prosecute

verb
How to pronounce prosecute (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prosecute

law : to hold a trial against a person who is accused of a crime to see if that person is guilty
: to work as a lawyer to try to prove a case against someone accused of a crime
formal : to continue to do (something) : to proceed with (something)

prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Kids Definition of prosecute

1 : to carry on a legal action against an accused person to prove his or her guilt
2 : to follow up to the end : keep at prosecute a war

prosecute

verb
pros·​e·​cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt How to pronounce prosecute (audio) \
prosecuted; prosecuting

Legal Definition of prosecute

transitive verb

1 : to institute and carry forward legal action against for redress or especially punishment of a crime
2 : to institute and carry on a lawsuit with reference to an action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interestFederal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 17(a)

intransitive verb

: to institute and carry on a civil or criminal action decided not to prosecute

Other Words from prosecute

prosecutable \ ˌprä-​si-​ˈkyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prosecutable (audio) \ adjective

History and Etymology for prosecute

Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue

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Comments on prosecute

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