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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from prosecute

prosecutable \ ˌprä-​sə-​ˈkyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prosecute (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Pro-police groups in the district blame Rollins's policies of declining to prosecute those resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges as allowing criminals to roam the street. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Soros reshapes prosecutor landscape with crucial victories despite Democratic down-ballot struggles," 17 Dec. 2020 Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said in a statement Friday that his office will prosecute those who commit property damage or violence near the red house. oregonlive, "Black and Indigenous Portland family appears to have raised enough money to buy back ‘red house,’ but no deal struck," 12 Dec. 2020 The Multnomah County district attorney praised the county Democratic Party Tuesday for recently passing a resolution supporting his decision not to prosecute certain protesters at nightly demonstrations in Portland. Fox News, "Portland-area DA praises Democratic group for supporting decriminalizing riot-related crimes," 25 Nov. 2020 In April 2019, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a Democrat, announced a policy of declining to prosecute marijuana-possession charges for most first-time offenders. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "In Tarrant County, people facing pot charges can have their cases dismissed if they turn over a new leaf," 23 Nov. 2020 The candidates, some of them incumbents, have pledged to take up or continue policies such as declining to prosecute low-level drug offenses, not seeking cash bail, and holding police accountable for brutality. NBC News, "Black Lives Matter faces test of its influence in election," 2 Nov. 2020 That was followed by her pronouncement that her office would not prosecute certain lower-level offenses, including drug possession, during the pandemic. Phil Davis, baltimoresun.com, "Police charge fewer people amid COVID, changing mores. Upshot: Maryland drug treatment centers reel from lack of funds," 31 Oct. 2020 The draft report, which is not public and contains preliminary findings, found that some of the U.S. attorneys pushed back, declining to prosecute two cases because the parents had infant children. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, "‘We need to take away children,’ Sessions said of immigrants, New York Times reports," 6 Oct. 2020 Depending on the grand jury's findings, Cameron's options range from declining to prosecute to charging one or more officers. Elizabeth Joseph And Ray Sanchez, CNN, "Kentucky Attorney General to announce grand jury decision in Breonna Taylor case," 23 Sep. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prosecute

Time Traveler for prosecute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for prosecute

Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prosecute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prosecute. Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

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 prosecute (audio) \ adjective

History and Etymology for prosecute

Latin prosecutus, past participle of prosequi to pursue

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on prosecute

What made you want to look up prosecute? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!