noun ret·ri·bu·tion \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of retribution

2 : the dispensing or receiving of reward or punishment especially in the hereafter
3 : something given or exacted in recompense; especially : punishment

Examples of retribution in a Sentence

  1. The elastic-faced Ruck is a real find: his Cameron is a guilt-ridden, father-dominated nerd almost paralyzed with fear of parental retribution. —David AnsenNewsweek16 June 1986
  2. The two purposes that sustain the death penalty … in the Court's view are general deterrence and retribution. —Thurgood MarshallGregg v. Georgia1976
  3. " … As for Cordelia, she went insane with remorse and was shut up in a lunatic asylum. I thought that was a poetical retribution for her crime." —Lucy Maud MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables1908
  4. The killer acted without fear of retribution.

  5. the neighborhood is being torn apart by an endless cycle of gang violence and retribution

Recent Examples of retribution from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'retribution.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

With its prefix re-, meaning "back", retribution means literally "payback". And indeed we usually use it when talking about personal revenge, whether it's retribution for an insult in a high-school corridor or retribution for a guerrilla attack on a government building. But retribution isn't always so personal: God takes "divine retribution" on humans several times in the Old Testament, especially in the great Flood that wipes out almost the entire human race. And retribution for criminal acts, usually in the form of a prison sentence, is taken by the state, not the victims.

Origin and Etymology of retribution

Middle English retribucioun, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin retribution-, retributio, from Latin retribuere to pay back, from re- + tribuere to pay — more at tribute

RETRIBUTION Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of retribution for English Language Learners

  • : punishment for doing something wrong

RETRIBUTION Defined for Kids


noun ret·ri·bu·tion \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən \

Definition of retribution for Students

Law Dictionary


noun ret·ri·bu·tion \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən \

legal Definition of retribution

: punishment imposed (as on a convicted criminal) for purposes of repayment or revenge for the wrong committed

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