pun·​ish | \ ˈpə-nish How to pronounce punish (audio) \
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 How to pronounce punishability (audio) \ noun
punishable \ ˈpə-​nish-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce punishable (audio) \ adjective
punisher noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for punish



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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

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 Previously, the ordinance said anyone violating it could be punished by up to 30 days in the municipal jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Anna Beahm | Abeahm@al.com, al, "Birmingham council extends mask ordinance to June 12, adjusts fines," 29 May 2020 Beijing says the law is intended to prevent and punish acts in Hong Kong that threaten China’s national security. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "VPN demand in Hong Kong reveals a new fear: China weaponizing the Internet," 26 May 2020 Over the past 20 years, many have given up fighting against soaring housing prices and a punishing cost of living, and have moved out. Carly Stern, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Area’s artists are struggling more than ever in coronavirus shutdown," 22 May 2020 This despite credible charges that China hid the scale of the virus and punished Chinese doctors who publicly warned that risks were growing. Ian Bremmer, Time, "Why We Need the World Health Organization, Despite Its Flaws," 14 May 2020 That would push total unemployment claims the past eight weeks to a staggering 36 million and foreshadow another punishing jobs report for May, though payroll losses should fall noticeably from the record 20.5 million in April. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "Layoffs are easing but remain at historic levels as millions likely filed for unemployment last week," 13 May 2020 Bombredi said Walsh warned employees over the intercom that those who stayed home sick would be punished while those who showed up would be rewarded. David Armstrong, ProPublica, "Superintendent Bragged About VA Review of Short-Staffed Soldiers Home. Two Months Later, 73 Veterans Are Dead.," 11 May 2020 The pursuit offers me spiritual sovereignty over this physical confinement (and I highly recommend it for any woman currently punishing her body in an attempt to control the pangs of this pandemic). Genevieve Angelson, refinery29.com, "In Quarantine, Confronting The Eating Disorder That Almost Killed Me," 4 May 2020 Having a soft spot for criminals institutionally proved nearly to be the ruination of America’s greatest city until the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani seized on the counterrevolutionary idea of disrupting and punishing crime instead of shrugging at it. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Three Ways of Looking at Dog Day Afternoon," 4 May 2020

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 entry 1

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Time Traveler for punish

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for punish

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Punish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punish. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for punish


How to pronounce punish (audio)

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 How to pronounce punish (audio) \
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.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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.

pun·​ish | \ ˈpə-nish How to pronounce punish (audio) \

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 How to pronounce punishability (audio) \ noun
punishable \ ˈpə-​ni-​shə-​bəl How to pronounce punishable (audio) \ adjective
punisher noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on punish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for punish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with punish

Spanish Central: Translation of punish

Nglish: Translation of punish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of punish for Arabic Speakers

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