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 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Team is prosecuting the case. oregonlive, "Three people indicted in Multnomah County sex trafficking investigation," 21 May 2020 The McMichaels weren’t charged until the GBI was brought into the case in early May. Three district attorneys passed on prosecuting the case, which now resides with the district attorney of Cobb County in metro Atlanta. Jan Skutch, USA TODAY, "Judge Timothy Walmsley’s appointed to preside over Ahmaud Arbery case, the first step in long judicial process," 20 May 2020 The brief, written by Yost and Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers, says the Justice Department, part of the Executive Branch, cannot be forced to prosecute a case because of the separation of powers spelled out in the Constitution. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Ohio AG Dave Yost: Judge should have no say in whether to prosecute Michael Flynn for lying to FBI," 18 May 2020 Pelosi in Tuesday’s meeting could share the names of the impeachment managers who will prosecute the House’s case in the Senate trial. Billy House, Bloomberg.com, "Yovanovitch Lawyer Calls Texts ‘Disturbing’: Impeachment Update," 13 May 2020 The indictment is part of an ongoing investigation by DHS and Postal Service inspector generals and was announced by the two agencies, the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case. Washington Post, "Former acting Homeland Security inspector general indicted in data theft of 250,000 workers," 6 Mar. 2020 The Wayne County Prosecutor immediately stop prosecuting cases that rely on evidence from the unit. Bisma Parvez, Detroit Free Press, "Grassroots groups call for investigation into Detroit Police corruption scandal," 10 Feb. 2020 Ahead of Friday’s vote, the Democratic representatives prosecuting the case spoke of its historical importance. The New Yorker, "Watch Live: Closing Arguments Begin in Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial," 3 Feb. 2020 Both a lawyer for Mr. Silver and a spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, declined to comment. Corinne Ramey, WSJ, "Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction Partially Overturned," 21 Jan. 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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prosecute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prosecute. Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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 prosecutable (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

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!