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, venge [archaic]

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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

Mark Wilson/Getty Images President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to retaliate against General Motors for its decision to shutter plants and slash jobs by cutting the automaker’s federal subsidies, including for electric cars. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump says he’ll cut GM’s subsidies. He can’t do it without Congress.," 27 Nov. 2018 China has threatened to retaliate against $60 billion of American products if Trump goes ahead with his tariffs. John Roberts, Fox News, "Trump gives green light to sanctions on $200 billion in Chinese goods," 15 Sep. 2018 Not cooperating results in everyone having less, but retaliating every time someone doesn’t cooperate results in social dysfunction. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Low-caste men in India cooperate like college students," 7 Nov. 2018 The Trump administration plans to unveil fresh tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese products in the coming days, while Beijing is debating new ways to retaliate against U.S. corporations doing business in China. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Weaker Dollar Lifts Copper Despite Renewed Trade Angst," 17 Sep. 2018 President Donald Trump has proposed slapping duties on, all told, up to $550 billion if China keeps retaliating and doesn't cave in to U.S. demands to scale back its aggressive industrial policies. Paul Wiseman And Christopher Rugaber,, "Trump's tariffs: What they are and how they will work," 9 July 2018 Canadian and European leaders pledged to retaliate against the United States — and Trump — for placing tariffs on their exports by imposing tariffs of their own taxing U.S. products. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Donald Trump thinks G-7 flap will help with Kim Jong Un; others aren't so sure," 10 June 2018 Such a move would increase the danger that the Chinese retaliate by punishing Apple’s business in China, trade experts say. Tripp Mickle, WSJ, "Apple Reports Record Results but Weak Revenue Outlook," 1 Nov. 2018 The Daily Mail reported that the couple told senior royals about the pregnancy at the wedding, and alleged that Sarah Ferguson, Eugenie’s mother, retaliated by tweeting photos of her daughter around the same time the royal baby news went public. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "Confirming speculation at Friday’s royal wedding, Kensington Palace announced the news Monday.," 15 Oct. 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

13 Dec 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

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