punitive

adjective
pu·ni·tive | \ˈpyü-nə-tiv \

Definition of punitive 

: inflicting, involving, or aiming at punishment severe punitive measures

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Other Words from punitive

punitively adverb
punitiveness noun

Punitive and the Law

Punitive is an important word in the law. When you sue a person or company for having wronged you in some way, you normally ask for something of value equal to what you were deprived of by the other party. But when the defendant has done something particularly bad, you may also ask for punitive damages, money over and above the actual cost of the harm done, intended to teach the defendant a lesson. Punitive damages are fairly rare, but when they're actually granted they may be as much as four times the size of the basic damages.

Examples of punitive in a Sentence

The federal government will take punitive action against the company that polluted the river. Lobbyists complain that the bill would impose punitive taxes on the industry.

Recent Examples on the Web

Exporters may have been rushing to beat the punitive tariffs (import taxes) that China had promised to impose (and later did) in retaliation for Trump’s proposed taxes on what the U.S. buys from China. Brooks Jackson, Philly.com, "Trump's Numbers (Second Quarterly Update) | FactCheck," 11 July 2018 For example, the punitive tariffs Mexico levied on pork last week are already causing losses for a $20 billion annual industry. Lynn Brezosky, San Antonio Express-News, "D.C. ag interns on the front lines of national farm policy," 10 June 2018 Ultimately, this could prove more damaging than punitive tariffs — and is more likely. NBC News, "Trump's policies could have 'severe consequences' worldwide, say global economists," 7 June 2018 President Trump has decided to impose punitive tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from a range of countries but specifically from U.S. allies—so Mexico, Canada, Germany, Europe in general. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, "Why Steel Tariffs Matter," 4 June 2018 From the perspective of the White House, the United States had negotiated a preliminary deal with Brazil, as well as Argentina and Australia, to exempt the countries from punitive steel and aluminum tariffs. Shasta Darlington, New York Times, "The U.S. Says It Has a Tariff Deal With Brazil. Brazil Disagrees.," 2 May 2018 China’s golf courses, which also have an exorbitant thirst, face punitive water tariffs. The Economist, "Trouble on the slopesWinter sports face a double threat, from climate and demographic change," 25 Jan. 2018 In 2017, the group highlighted the jail's rampant use of solitary confinement for inmates, punitive use of restraints and routine use of force against people with mental illness. Maxine Bernstein, OregonLive.com, "Advocacy group finds improvements in Multnomah County's downtown jail," 10 May 2018 Stocks have shown resilience in recent weeks, even as the U.S. and China have ramped up punitive trade measures on each other that some analysts fear could hurt global growth. Akane Otani, WSJ, "U.S. Stocks Rise, Post Weekly Gains," 13 July 2018

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

1593, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for punitive

French punitif, from Medieval Latin punitivus, from Latin punitus, past participle of punire

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Statistics for punitive

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for punitive

The first known use of punitive was in 1593

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More Definitions for punitive

punitive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of punitive

: intended to punish someone or something

: extremely or unfairly severe or high

punitive

adjective
pu·ni·tive | \ˈpyü-nə-tiv \

Legal Definition of punitive 

: inflicting, involving, or aiming at punishment

Other Words from punitive

punitively adverb
punitiveness noun

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Comments on punitive

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