retribution

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

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

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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.

Examples of retribution in a Sentence

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 Ansen, Newsweek, 16 June 1986 The two purposes that sustain the death penalty … in the Court's view are general deterrence and retribution. — Thurgood Marshall, Gregg v. Georgia, 1976 " … 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 Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, 1908 The killer acted without fear of retribution. the neighborhood is being torn apart by an endless cycle of gang violence and retribution
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Recent Examples on the Web

There was a fear that renters, afraid of losing their homes, would be reluctant to complaining about a landlord for fear of retribution. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Seattle’s mandatory rental inspection law challenged in lawsuit," 6 Dec. 2018 The gridlock was intended to exact political retribution on the borough’s Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election bid, prosecutors said. Corinne Ramey, WSJ, "‘Bridgegate’ Convictions Largely Upheld by Appeals Court," 27 Nov. 2018 And the church is not afraid to throw its weight around or even dole out old-school retribution. NBC News, "The last bastion of anti-abortion Democrats — and the move to oust them," 25 June 2018 Dominique Fishback follows her breakout work on The Deuce with an emotionally engaging turn as a bruised Pennsylvania teen on a mission of retribution in director Jordana Spiro's Night Comes On. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Night Comes On': Film Review | Sundance 2018," 23 Jan. 2018 The worker requested anonymity to avoid retribution from the Algerian government. chicagotribune.com, "Algeria stops forcing migrants into Sahara Desert after widespread outrage," 13 July 2018 The worker requested anonymity to avoid retribution from the Algerian government. NBC News, "Algeria stops forcing migrants into Sahara after widespread outrage," 13 July 2018 But a justice system governed solely by victims’ wishes for vengeance and retribution is not just, or tenable. Yvonne Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "At Department of Correction, a death of compassion," 28 June 2018 In an interview, a former city employee who requested anonymity out of fear of political retribution said Paul Hastings lawyers appeared to be assessing the criminal exposure of high ranking city officials at the public’s expense. Stephen Deere, ajc, "Atlanta’s legal bills related to corruption probe top $7.5M, AJC finds," 28 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of retribution

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for retribution

The first known use of retribution was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for retribution

retribution

noun

English Language Learners Definition of retribution

: punishment for doing something wrong

retribution

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

Kids Definition of retribution

retribution

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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