pun·​ish·​ment | \ ˈpə-nish-mənt How to pronounce punishment (audio) \

Definition of punishment

1 : the act of punishing
2a : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution
b : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure
3 : severe, rough, or disastrous treatment

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Examples of punishment in a Sentence

I took away my daughter's car keys as a punishment for her bad behavior. The punishments that the government has inflicted on the protesters are severe and unjust. The punishment for murder is life imprisonment. Some religions teach that wicked people will suffer eternal punishment in hell after they die.
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Recent Examples on the Web During the punishment phase, Pickett produced records and witnesses proving Harbour began robbing innocent victims at the age of 16. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Liberty County court sentences Houston man to 36 years for jugging charge," 20 Feb. 2020 Data shows capital punishment in the U.S. is steadily declining. Tyler Kendall, CBS News, "He has four murder convictions. His victims' families don't want him to die on death row.," 20 Feb. 2020 The news organization requested a tour in light of a law passed last year that represents the first major legislative restriction to Oregon’s death penalty since 1984, when voters amended the constitution to include capital punishment. oregonlive, "Mercy Corps report finds ‘missteps’; board apologizes, another exec resigns: Morning Briefing for Thursday, Feb. 6," 6 Feb. 2020 Following a trial, the suspect could face life in prison or capital punishment if Attorney General William Barr pursues it. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "'Domestic terrorism': El Paso mass shooting suspect indicted on 90 hate crime charges," 6 Feb. 2020 Clark wrote in court records, and the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure state bail is meant to ensure a defendant shows up for trial — not to be used as punishment. Ashley Remkus | Aremkus@al.com, al, "Huntsville police slaying suspect asks judge to set bail," 25 Jan. 2020 No decision in the court’s history — even those outlawing school segregation and capital punishment — has evoked the controversy expected to erupt from this decision. Meagan Hurley, Dallas News, "47 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas abortion law in Roe vs. Wade," 22 Jan. 2020 Photo/Brennan Linsley Over the summer, after some 15 years, the Trump administration announced the federal government would reinstate capital punishment. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "US prison fences designed to kill may be illegal under international law," 27 Nov. 2019 All 12 jurors will have to recommend capital punishment for the Marine veteran to be sent to death row instead of being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Monivette Cordeiro, orlandosentinel.com, "Everett Miller trial: Expert says Marine veteran sought help from VA days before killing 2 Kissimmee cops," 12 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'punishment.' 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 punishment

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for punishment

Time Traveler

The first known use of punishment was in the 15th century

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Statistics for punishment

Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Punishment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punishment. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for punishment


How to pronounce punishment (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of punishment

: the act of punishing someone or a way of punishing someone
: the state of being punished
: rough physical treatment


pun·​ish·​ment | \ ˈpə-nish-mənt How to pronounce punishment (audio) \

Kids Definition of punishment

1 : the act of making a wrongdoer suffer : the state of being made to suffer for wrongdoing
2 : the penalty for a wrong or crime



Legal Definition of punishment

1 : the act of punishing
2 : a penalty (as a fine or imprisonment) inflicted on an offender through the judicial and especially criminal process — see also cruel and unusual punishment

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