re·​tal·​i·​ate | \ ri-ˈta-lē-ˌāt How to pronounce retaliate (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from retaliate

retaliation \ ri-​ˌta-​lē-​ˈā-​shən How to pronounce retaliation (audio) , ˌrē-​ \ noun
retaliative \ ri-​ˈta-​lē-​ˌā-​tiv How to pronounce retaliative (audio) \ adjective
retaliatory \ ri-​ˈtal-​yə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce retaliatory (audio) , -​ˈta-​lē-​ə-​ \ adjective

Synonyms for retaliate


avenge, redress, requite, revenge, venge [archaic]

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

The union retaliated by refusing to handle those trains, paralyzing the commerce of the entire nation. Gregory Crouch, WSJ, "‘The Edge of Anarchy’ Review: Blood On the Tracks," 7 Jan. 2019 Other countries are retaliating by charging counter tariffs. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Businessman says Trump tariffs will lead to cutbacks at Menomonee Falls firm. Sensenbrenner said Congress doesn't have the vote to stop him.," 10 July 2018 China then retaliated with tariffs on some $3 billion in U.S. goods, and each country has since threatened to target additional imports. Katherine Blunt, Houston Chronicle, "Analysts say trade war could hurt U.S. petrochemicals boom," 11 Apr. 2018 Japan, unlike China, isn’t moving to block U.S. goods by retaliating for Trump administration tariffs. Jacob M. Schlesinger, WSJ, "U.S. Farmers Fear Lucrative Japanese Exports Will Wither," 25 Dec. 2018 Officials said White also is accused of retaliating against staff, and transferring employees out of their jobs without cause, including after staff complained about certain assignments and tasks. Lolita C. Baldor, Fox News, "Pentagon spokeswoman under inspector general investigation," 15 Aug. 2018 All involved kept the action secret, in hopes of keeping Mr. Assad from retaliating, but it was revealed, by The New York Times and others, a few weeks later. David E. Sanger, New York Times, "Trump Greets Plans for North Korea-Syria Meeting With Deafening Silence," 4 June 2018 China has promised to impose tariffs on U.S. farm exports as a way of retaliating against Trump's planned tariffs. Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount," 12 Apr. 2018 Tabman left the bureau in 2007 after Special Agent Harry Samit accused him of retaliating against him when Tabman was running the FBI’s Minneapolis office. Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "Former FBI agent, who sued the bureau, running for Kansas governor," 2 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about retaliate

Share retaliate

Statistics for retaliate

Last Updated

22 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for retaliate

The first known use of retaliate was in 1606

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce retaliate (audio) \
retaliated; retaliating

Kids Definition of retaliate

: to get revenge by returning like for like


intransitive verb
re·​tal·​i·​ate | \ ri-ˈta-lē-ˌāt How to pronounce retaliate (audio) \
retaliated; retaliating

Legal Definition of retaliate

: to act in revenge

Other Words from retaliate

retaliation \ -​ˌta-​lē-​ˈā-​shən How to pronounce retaliation (audio) \ noun
retaliative \ -​ˈta-​lē-​ˌā-​tiv How to pronounce retaliative (audio) \ adjective
retaliatory \ -​ˈtal-​yə-​ˌtōr-​ē How to pronounce retaliatory (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!