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

Trump’s biggest impediment is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has infuriated Trump by failing to prosecute Trump’s enemies and, especially, by recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Why Hasn’t Trump Fired Scott Pruitt? Because Pruitt Can Fire Robert Mueller.," 3 July 2018 The former Air Force linguist earned the distinction of being the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information under the Espionage Act. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "Cyber Saturday—How Science Could Have Saved Reality Winner," 1 July 2018 No one, regardless of age, should be subjected to flogging; that a child was prosecuted for consuming alcohol and sentenced to 80 lashes beggars belief. Greg Norman, Fox News, "GRAPHIC PHOTO: Iran slammed for 'shocking' flogging of man convicted for drinking alcohol as a teen," 12 July 2018 The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides guidance to executive branch agencies, has said sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted while in office. Mary Clare Jalonick, The Seattle Times, "Kavanaugh’s views on presidential powers could be flashpoint," 10 July 2018 This man should be prosecuted, if possible; a counselor can help to guide you through the process of deciding whether to try to charge this child rapist for this crime. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "Rape victim wonders if childhood assault was her fault," 6 July 2018 According to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE, Marquez, who is being prosecuted as an adult, was a longtime friend of Ben’s. Adam Carlson, PEOPLE.com, "Slain Boy's Father Sat Front Row in Court to Face Accused Murderers: 'I Wanted Them to Look at Me'," 5 July 2018 Fabrice Tourre was one of the few on Wall Street prosecuted for building and selling the complex mortgage bonds that blew up when real-estate prices crashed. Matt Wirz, WSJ, "Goldman Mortgage Trader Convicted of Fraud Pursuing New Career in Academia," 2 July 2018 Trump’s policy, on the other hand, maintains a blanket rule under which adults, with or without kids, are prosecuted, which has led to the separation of more than 2,000 kids from their parents. Noor Brara, Vogue, "Of Course Corey Lewandowski Won’t Apologize for Mocking a Migrant Child With Down Syndrome," 20 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

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Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

10 Nov 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

History and Etymology for prosecute

Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue

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Comments on prosecute

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