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 The financial crash of 2008 opened the first major cracks in the settlement that fused austerity and punishment as hallmarks of good government. Nikhil Pal Singh, The New Republic, "Are Liberal Cities Turning Against Their Progressive Prosecutors?," 14 May 2021 The fact that the U.S. legal system is so inept at dealing with this kind of terrorism and so rarely exacts any form of harsh punishment for such actions belies a lack of seriousness in addressing what is a growing problem. David Blackmon, Forbes, "Colonial Pipeline Cyber Attack Highlights Need For More Seriousness In Energy Policy," 13 May 2021 As a form of costly punishment aimed at the rich and powerful, spite can weaken dominance hierarchies and promote fairness. Charlie Tyson, The Atlantic, "How We Got So Spiteful," 13 May 2021 Under Mississippi law, possession of between 30 and 250 grams (1.05 and 8.8 ounces) of marijuana can carry a punishment of up to three years in prison, a $3,000 fine, or both. Leah Willingham, Star Tribune, "Mississippi court upholds life sentence for pot possession," 12 May 2021 Kevin Creed is to serve the state sentence for first-degree larceny consecutively with federal punishment previously imposed, for a total of 62 months behind bars. Jesse Leavenworth, courant.com, "Disgraced Bristol attorney who swindled veterans charity gets 20 months on state charge," 12 May 2021 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the country’s death penalty punishment for homosexual conduct during a press conference in June 2019. NBC News, "Gay Iranian man dead in alleged 'honor killing,' rights group says," 11 May 2021 Perhaps this is why naltrexone seems to be a favorite among some of America’s drug-court judges, who may view withdrawal as its own form of redemptive punishment. New York Times, "Hollywood Has a New Way to Dramatize Addiction," 11 May 2021 Moore can reduce a panel’s punishment but cannot increase it. Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times, "New civilian discipline panels more lenient on accused LAPD officers, review finds," 11 May 2021

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

16 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Punishment.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punishment. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for punishment



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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