punitive

adjective
pu·​ni·​tive | \ ˈpyü-nə-tiv How to pronounce punitive (audio) \

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 Burns said the district needs to focus on school culture, providing alternatives to punitive measures that can derail a student’s academic career. John Cutter, orlandosentinel.com, "Lake School Board primary races set in Districts 2, 4," 6 Aug. 2020 Birmingham, for instance, has a mask mandate that has been in effect since April, but which hasn’t produced punitive arrests or fines. al, "Who will make Alabama students wear masks and social distance?," 5 Aug. 2020 Should the criminal justice system be more progressive and less punitive? Summer Ballentine And Jim Salter, chicagotribune.com, "Government healthcare, race and policing, gun rights: National issues get local spotlight in Missouri today," 4 Aug. 2020 The United States and other Western powers imposed punitive sanctions, and the already indebted country remained cut off from World Bank and IMF loans. James Pogue, Harper's Magazine, "The Myth of White Genocide," 4 Aug. 2020 This becomes part of the political conversation and it’s the political impetus that’s pushing penal policy in this very punitive direction. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "Who’s really inside America’s jails? (audio)," 3 Aug. 2020 Timeouts are supposed to be boring, not scary or extremely punitive. Lucy (kathleen) Mcgoron, The Conversation, "Timeouts improve kids’ behavior if you do them the right way," 31 July 2020 For those of us who saw our bodies as the enemy, exercise was often punitive and associated with negativity. Louise Green, SELF, "A Pep Talk for Anyone Who Wants to Work Out Right Now But Feels Like Fitness Isn’t for Them (or Is Too Self-Conscious to Start)," 30 July 2020 These federal funding streams, beginning in the 1960s, reflect the federal government’s role in spurring states towards more punitive criminal justice measures. Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY, "Fact check: 1994 crime bill did not bring mass incarceration of Black Americans," 3 July 2020

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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Time Traveler for punitive

Time Traveler

The first known use of punitive was in 1593

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Statistics for punitive

Last Updated

9 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Punitive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punitive. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for punitive

punitive

adjective
How to pronounce punitive (audio)

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 How to pronounce punitive (audio) \

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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