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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Harassment in the workplace is underreported because of the fear of some form of retribution in regard to one’s reputation, ability to be promoted or even job security. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 1 June 2021 This nation has a history of violence, and in that history, the gun has been used to deal with fear and guilt, and the fear of retribution. John Blake, CNN, 30 May 2021 One of Neville’s detectives must go on the run to avoid retribution; other characters flee the country after their communities turn against them. Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021 This is necessary to ensure people not only know how to report concerns but also feel safe doing so without fear of retribution. Stephanie Hartman, Forbes, 25 May 2021 Now police were waging what appeared to be a campaign of retribution. Washington Post, 20 May 2021 Her apparent success in securing a phone call from her brother is what pushed Malik al-Dweish to discuss his father’s case with the Journal from inside Saudi Arabia, despite the risk of retribution. WSJ, 17 May 2021 It has long been cited as a sign of what America stands for: complete independence, and the freedom to publicly mock our leaders, without fear of retribution. Bill Carter For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 14 May 2021 Many spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters or out of fear of retribution. Anchorage Daily News, 10 May 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About retribution

Time Traveler for retribution

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for retribution

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Retribution.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retribution. Accessed 17 Jun. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Dog Breeds

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!