prosecute

verb
pros·e·cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt \
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 \ 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

Spyrliadis said a European warrant ordinarily would take precedence over others, giving France first dibs on prosecuting Vinnik. Washington Post, "Greek court rules to extradite cybercrime suspect to France," 13 July 2018 The policy that triggered the separations was clear enough: prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, which meant taking away the kids, who cannot be put in criminal detention with adults. Maya Rhodan, Time, "For the Trump Administration, Reuniting Migrant Families Proves Easier Said Than Done," 12 July 2018 Meanwhile, New York adopts a similar road map, no longer prosecuting stuff like public urination. Fox News, "President Trump puts NATO on notice," 12 July 2018 Jones is a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted two KKK members for a church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Jay Reeves, The Seattle Times, "Bill would release records from civil-rights cold cases," 10 July 2018 Under zero tolerance, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are policing and prosecuting people who enter US ports and seek asylum from violence or persecution in their home countries. Vogue, "The Families Belong Together March Is on June 30: Everything You Need to Know," 27 June 2018 Kasian grew up in Ukraine with her parents and sister, went to law school and prosecuted tax crimes there, according to the Times. Alexia Fernandez, PEOPLE.com, "Trust Fund Graphic Novelist Sentenced to Life in Prison For Torturing Fiancée Next to Baby Daughter," 26 June 2018 Family separation is not the President’s fault for arresting and prosecuting lawbreakers. Emily Cadei, sacbee, "'Don’t break the law,' McClintock says to families separated at the border," 20 June 2018 Crossing the border is prosecuted as a crime, and when adults are detained, the minors accompanying them are taken away. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "Babies torn from immigrant parents land in Michigan: 'They need diapers'," 19 June 2018

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

Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue

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Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prosecute

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

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More Definitions for prosecute

prosecute

verb

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

: to continue to do (something) : to proceed with (something)

prosecute

verb
pros·e·cute | \ ˈprä-si-ˌkyüt \
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 \
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 \ adjective

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Comments on prosecute

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