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 Trump administration hasn’t decided whether to grant exemptions, but has said the intent of sanctions isn’t to punish Afghanistan or India. Rajesh Roy, WSJ, "Iranian Port Project Poses a Dilemma for U.S.," 28 Oct. 2018 The judge has also asked the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiff in the suit against the Trump administration, to propose ways to punish the government for its failure. Elaine Ayala, San Antonio Express-News, "Unmarked vans, security fences: family reunification proceeds behind curtain of secrecy," 12 July 2018 And the Raiders don’t want to punish Lynch and risk alienating Oakland fans. Scott Ostler, SFChronicle.com, "Scott Ostler: Deep thoughts, cheap shots & bon mots," 30 June 2018 The Trump administration has taken actions to punish Putin’s regime for these offenses. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump to Meet Putin in Helsinki for Summit Next Month," 28 June 2018 As 2016 demonstrated, the Supreme Court has a funny way of becoming a wedge issue in a hurry, and the GOP will use it to punish Democrats in contests that Democrats cannot afford to lose. Jay Willis, GQ, "Why Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Is Even Worse Than You Think," 27 June 2018 The apparent goal is to punish the targeted producers for thwarting efforts to ameliorate climate change. BostonGlobe.com, "Should Massachusetts divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies?," 15 June 2018 Like Ocean’s 11 before it, which revealed that Danny Ocean’s big heist was really a ploy to punish the casino owner who was dating his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), Ocean’s 8 is also something of a revenge story. Laura Bradley, HWD, "Ocean’s 8: The Agony and Ecstasy of All That Unresolved Sexual Tension," 8 June 2018 At the time, Hayes' attorney responded in court documents by saying the award would punish her for protecting her personal documents and her right against self-incrimination. Jeff Manning, OregonLive.com, "Former Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes to file bankruptcy," 6 June 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

15 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on punish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with punish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for punish

Spanish Central: Translation of punish

Nglish: Translation of punish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of punish for Arabic Speakers

Comments on punish

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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