re·tal·i·ate | \ri-ˈta-lē-ˌāt \
retaliated; retaliating

Definition of retaliate 

transitive verb

: to repay in kind retaliate an injury

intransitive verb

: to return like for like especially : to get revenge

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Other Words from retaliate

retaliation \ri-ˌta-lē-ˈā-shən, ˌrē- \ noun
retaliative \ri-ˈta-lē-ˌā-tiv \ adjective
retaliatory \ri-ˈtal-yə-ˌtȯr-ē, -ˈta-lē-ə- \ adjective

Synonyms for retaliate


avenge, redress, requite, revenge

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Choose the Right Synonym for retaliate

reciprocate, retaliate, requite, return mean to give back usually in kind or in quantity. reciprocate implies a mutual or equivalent exchange or a paying back of what one has received. reciprocated their hospitality by inviting them for a visit retaliate usually implies a paying back of injury in exact kind, often vengefully. the enemy retaliated by executing their prisoners requite implies a paying back according to one's preference and often not equivalently. requited her love with cold indifference return implies a paying or giving back. returned their call return good for evil

Examples of retaliate in a Sentence

After the company announced plans to reduce benefits, the union threatened to retaliate by calling for a strike. retaliated his neighbor's malicious destruction of his flower garden by cutting down the man's prize apple tree

Recent Examples on the Web

As China, Canada and the European Union retaliate against American tariffs, the winners from trade are the ones at risk of becoming the losers. Neil Irwin, New York Times, "Two Words That Could Shape the Politics of the Trade War: Loss Aversion," 13 July 2018 Those Friday jobs numbers coming on the same day that the Trump administration began imposing tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods with Beijing retaliating with its own tariffs on American products, including soybeans and cars. Fox News, "Unions brace for fallout from SCOTUS's Janus decision," 8 July 2018 Death threats against an official or immediate family, and attempts to intimidate, interfere with, or retaliate against an official based on his or her official duties are all federal crimes. Glenn Fleishman, Fortune, "FBI Arrests Man Who Threatened to Kill FCC Chair Ajit Pai's Children," 29 June 2018 Democrats widely decried the move as an attempt to gerrymander the state’s highest courts and retaliate against Supreme Court justices. Jonathan Lai,, "Top Pa. Republicans appeal gerrymandering case to U.S. Supreme Court," 21 June 2018 Russian forces were reportedly concerned that the U.S. military would retaliate for the use of chemical weapons and jammed drones to prevent U.S. forces gathering information. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Russia Is Jamming US Drones Flying Over Syria," 11 Apr. 2018 To retaliate, Kristen keeps splashing Ramona and getting her hair wet, so Ramona decides to just throw her glass in Kristen's face. Patrick Varone, Redbook, "The Real Housewives of New York," 6 May 2014 This came a few days after America fired its first salvo, levying duties on $34bn-worth of Chinese industrial exports, to which China retaliated with tariffs on an equivalent value of American goods. The Economist, "Business this week," 12 July 2018 The staff members who spoke to The Republic asked not to be identified, fearing they would be fired or retaliated against. Craig Harris, azcentral, "Arizona Parks Director Sue Black again faces investigation for her treatment of staff," 10 July 2018

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

1606, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for retaliate

Late Latin retaliatus, past participle of retaliare, from Latin re- + talio legal retaliation

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Statistics for retaliate

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for retaliate

The first known use of retaliate was in 1606

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More Definitions for retaliate



English Language Learners Definition of retaliate

: to do something bad to someone who has hurt you or treated you badly : to get revenge against someone


re·tal·i·ate | \ri-ˈta-lē-ˌāt \
retaliated; retaliating

Kids Definition of retaliate

: to get revenge by returning like for like


intransitive verb
re·tal·i·ate | \ri-ˈta-lē-ˌāt \
retaliated; retaliating

Legal Definition of retaliate 

: to act in revenge

Other Words from retaliate

retaliation \-ˌta-lē-ˈā-shən \ noun
retaliative \-ˈta-lē-ˌā-tiv \ adjective
retaliatory \-ˈtal-yə-ˌtōr-ē \ adjective

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Comments on retaliate

What made you want to look up retaliate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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