retribution

noun
ret·​ri·​bu·​tion | \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən How to pronounce retribution (audio) \

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

But behind the scenes, the NRA has given Republican lawmakers the green light to float new gun restrictions without the threat of political retribution, according to two senior GOP officials. Philip Elliott, Time, "With Gun Sales Down, the NRA Told Republicans It's OK to Talk About Gun Control," 1 Mar. 2018 And his son hasn’t vowed specific political retribution on Florida Republicans like Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott, at least not yet. Alex Daugherty, miamiherald, "Rubio calls out Puerto Rico’s governor on statehood | Miami Herald," 19 Jan. 2018 The sweet, 21st-century ending unfolds in an unlikely setting: a family cemetery in rural Oklahoma, not far from the spot where, in 1839, a Cherokee Nation leader named John Ridge was stabbed to death in an act of political retribution. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Fighting for Native Americans, in Court and Onstage," 17 Jan. 2018 Gulzia, an ethnic Kazakh woman who didn’t want her last name used out of fear of retribution, said that cameras were being installed everywhere, even in cemeteries, in late 2017. Dake Kang, The Seattle Times, "Exposed Chinese database shows depth of surveillance state," 20 Feb. 2019 Late last month, an Olney staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the School District, retested the same spot on the floor beneath the pipe just outside Room 311. Wendy Ruderman, Philly.com, "New test: 10.7 million asbestos fibers on floor at Philadelphia elementary school," 6 June 2018 Indian television programs were filled with commentators Thursday evening demanding retribution by the Indian government. Bill Spindle, WSJ, "Deadly Bombing Targets Indian Security Personnel in Kashmir," 14 Feb. 2019 But for Umm Ahmed—who, for fear of retribution, asked to be identified only as umm, the Arabic word for mother, and Ahmed, the first name of her 14-year-old son—the memory is fleeting. Sophia Jones, Marie Claire, "The Truth About The Wives of ISIS," 4 Oct. 2018 As the mutual retribution continues, though, and a fatality ensues, Dana comes to perceive her new friend as a homicidal maniac with vindictive plans for everyone from Dana’s ex-writing partner to Dana herself. Tom Nolan, WSJ, "Mysteries: The Trials of an Ethical Thief," 11 Jan. 2019

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

20 Mar 2019

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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

formal : punishment for doing something wrong

retribution

noun
ret·​ri·​bu·​tion | \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən How to pronounce retribution (audio) \

Kids Definition of retribution

retribution

noun
ret·​ri·​bu·​tion | \ ˌre-trə-ˈbyü-shən How to pronounce retribution (audio) \

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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