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

Cuban-Americans who fled the Castro regime and their descendants are hugely influential in Florida politics, and De Blasio’s comment drew stunned retributions from Florida politicians of both parties. Washington Post, "Democrats’ use of Spanish in debate evokes praise, eye rolls," 27 June 2019 The idea fell short in previous years and lawmakers rejected it again, fearing retribution from voters. Alexei Koseff, SFChronicle.com, "Where Gov. Gavin Newsom wins and loses in newly passed California budget," 13 June 2019 The developer requested anonymity for fear of retribution from Apple or the developer's employer. Mark Gurman, Anchorage Daily News, "Apple cracks down on apps sharing information on users' friends," 12 June 2018 The horror genre loves to contemplate the absence of faith in films like The Exorcist, The Omen, and even The Nun, movies where souls are eternally damned and retribution rises from a very dark place. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "Us Offers a Terrifying Vision of Judgement Day," 26 Mar. 2019 Suddenly Bridgette had a nicer house and an air of retribution about her. Harmonyholiday, Longreads, "Mama Looks for Melanin," 6 June 2019 In his cinematic universe, everyone has the opportunity to commit evil, yet retribution and redemption are usually achieved by female and black characters. Tyler Coates, Esquire, "If Uma Thurman Is Angry at Quentin Tarantino, Why Shouldn’t I Be?," 5 Feb. 2018 The residents asked that their names not be used for fear of retribution. Peter Prengaman, The Seattle Times, "Collapse of buildings in Rio kills 3 in militia-run area," 12 Apr. 2019 Fearing retribution, Hussein’s parents turned her into the police, according to the BBC. Casey Quackenbush, Time, "Sudan Court Overturns Death Sentence of Teenager Who Killed Husband That Raped Her," 27 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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Statistics for retribution

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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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