punish

play
verb pun·ish \ ˈpə-nish \

Definition of punish

transitive verb
1 a :to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
b :to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation
2 a :to deal with roughly or harshly
b :to inflict injury on :hurt
intransitive verb
:to inflict punishment

punishability

play \ˌpə-nish-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun

punishable

play \ˈpə-nish-ə-bəl\ adjective

punisher

noun

Examples of punish in a Sentence

  1. I think that murderers should be punished by life imprisonment.

  2. She was punished for lying.

  3. His parents punished him by taking away his allowance.

  4. How should I punish my child's misbehavior?

  5. State law punishes fraud with fines.

Recent Examples of punish from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'punish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of punish

Middle English punisshen, from Anglo-French puniss-, stem of punir, from Latin punire, from poena penalty — more at pain

Synonym Discussion of punish

punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing. punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing.
    • punished for stealing
chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation.
    • chastised his son for neglecting his studies
castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure.
    • an editorial castigating the entire city council
chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued.
    • chastened by a landslide election defeat
discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control.
    • parents must discipline their children
correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender.
    • the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer

PUNISH Defined for English Language Learners

punish

play
verb

Definition of punish for English Language Learners

  • : to make (someone) suffer for a crime or for bad behavior

  • : to make someone suffer for (a crime or bad behavior)

  • : to treat (someone or something) severely or roughly


PUNISH Defined for Kids

punish

play
verb pun·ish \ ˈpə-nish \

Definition of punish for Students

punished; punishing
1 :to make suffer for a fault or crime
  • The child was punished for lying.
2 :to make someone suffer for (as a crime)
  • The law punishes theft.

Word Root of punish

The Latin word poena, meaning “punishment,” gives us the root pen or pun. Words from the Latin poena have something to do with punishments. A penalty is a punishment for doing something wrong. Anything penal, such as a group of laws, explains punishments for specific crimes. Punish and punishment also come from poena.

Synonym Discussion of punish

punish and discipline mean to put a penalty on someone for doing wrong. punish means giving some kind of pain or suffering to the wrongdoer often rather than trying to reform the person.
    • The criminals were punished with life imprisonment.
discipline is used of punishing the wrongdoer but usually includes an effort to bring the person under control.
    • Parents must discipline their children.

Law Dictionary

punish

play
transitive verb pun·ish \ ˈpə-nish \

legal Definition of punish

1 :to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
2 :to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation or as a deterrent
intransitive verb
:to inflict punishment

punishability

play \ˌpə-ni-shə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun

punishable

play \ˈpə-ni-shə-bəl\ adjective

punisher

noun


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

alert quickness of mind or body

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Merriam-Webster's New Words Quiz—Fall 2017 Edition!

  • young-plant-shoots
  • Which of the following is a new sense of the word bunny?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!