pun·ish | \ ˈpə-nish \
punished; punishing; punishes

Definition of punish 

transitive verb

1a : 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

2a : to deal with roughly or harshly

b : to inflict injury on : hurt

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Other words from punish

punishability \ˌpə-nish-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
punishable \ˈpə-nish-ə-bəl \ adjective
punisher noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for punish


castigate, chasten, chastise, correct, discipline, penalize


excuse, pardon, spare

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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 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.

Examples of punish in a Sentence

I think that murderers should be punished by life imprisonment. She was punished for lying. His parents punished him by taking away his allowance. How should I punish my child's misbehavior? State law punishes fraud with fines.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The other wives are unlikely to listen to her now that she’s been punished. Rena Gross, Billboard, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Season 2, Episode 13 Recap: 19 Startling Moments in 'The Word'," 11 July 2018 That doesn’t mean that players involved in domestic violence shouldn’t be punished, and severely. Will Leitch, Daily Intelligencer, "The Sports World Needs Its #MeToo Moment," 27 June 2018 During the early 1940s, many significant cultural figures went into exile, and civilians could be punished for speaking their native Catalan language in public spaces. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Beyond the Headlines, Catalan Culture Has a Long History of Vibrancy and Staying Power," 25 June 2018 While a court can’t punish a church for following its doctrine, a church doesn’t get a pass for failing to stop foreseeable criminal conduct. Jack Greiner, Cincinnati.com, "A church sex scandal meets the First Amendment," 20 June 2018 In India, a majority of courts do not consider marital rape a crime and therefore do not punish even those who may confess to it. Rafia Zakaria, The New Republic, "On Sending Women Home to Die," 18 June 2018 Until recently laws in several European countries—unlike America’s more stringent Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—did not punish bribery in third countries. The Economist, "Ely Calil, backer of a farcical coup plot, died on May 28th," 9 June 2018 The owner of the New York Jets also took a more conciliatory approach, promising not to punish any player who continues to protest against social injustice in full view of fans. Bloomberg.com, "Stand Or Stay Out of Sight: NFL Takes on Anthem Protesters," 23 May 2018 New York State schools should not punish students for participating in yesterday's gun safety walkout. Amanda Jackson, CNN, "Punished for taking part in a school walkout, a student is now running for the school board," 9 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of punish

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for punish

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

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Statistics for punish

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for punish

The first known use of punish was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for punish



English Language Learners Definition of punish

: 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


pun·ish | \ ˈpə-nish \
punished; punishing

Kids Definition of punish

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.

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

Other words from punish

punishability \ˌpə-ni-shə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
punishable \ˈpə-ni-shə-bəl \ adjective
punisher noun

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