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

This killing does not seem to have been prosecuted, and many of those which escaped public or legal notice must now have been lost to us. Longreads, "Fairy Scapegoats: A History of the Persecution of Changeling Children," 9 June 2018 Stewart had been prosecuted by former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired recently. Nick Romano, EW.com, "President Trump considers pardoning Martha Stewart," 31 May 2018 Journalists could conceivably be prosecuted for scraping sites like Facebook in the name of reporting. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Facebook’s problems in Europe are piling up," 21 Sep. 2018 Republicans on that panel batted down Democratic proposals that undercut the administration's zero tolerance policy of prosecuting and detaining migrants caught entering the U.S. illegally. CBS News, "Push by liberal Democrats’ to abolish ICE delights GOP," 13 July 2018 The practice alarmed local rights groups, who accused the mayor of employing a cheap political gimmick instead of prosecuting the accused through the legal system. Felipe Villamor, New York Times, "Philippine Mayor Who Shamed Drug Suspects Is Killed During Flag Ceremony," 2 July 2018 The Trump administration recently started implementing a policy of prosecuting all adults caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. Ashley Killough And Tal Kopan, CNN, "Lawmakers disagree over how to solve family separation at the border," 14 June 2018 Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli prosecuted the case. Heather Nolan, NOLA.com, "Man accused in 2014 murder behind Uptown church gets 30-year sentence," 6 June 2018 The Justice Department is having more success at prosecuting banks than going after the bankers who work for them. Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, "Prosecuting Bankers Proves Exercise in Frustration," 3 Mar. 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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Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

14 Apr 2019

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
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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