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

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 The Bosniak — or Bosnian Muslim — woman asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution for speaking freely about her experience. NBC News, "Hotel, hospital where war crimes occurred remain open in Bosnia-Herzegovina," 3 June 2018 Every employee should be safe to disclose her mental illness to her employer without fear of retribution—that's the law. Caitlin Flynn, Glamour, "How To Talk To Your Boss About Your Mental Health," 27 Mar. 2019 All the while, Aunt Lydia prowls around the edges, threatening retribution should June step out of line again. Caroline Framke, Vox, "The Handmaid’s Tale is as horrific as it’s ever been in “Other Women”," 9 May 2018 On Wednesday, as Joe Tanfani and Evan Halper reported, the Justice Department sent a letter to several city and county governments demanding information about their policies and vaguely threatening retribution. David Lauter, latimes.com, "Trump's immigration plan quickly hits a wall. Here's why," 26 Jan. 2018 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

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

Statistics for retribution

Last Updated

1 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for retribution

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

See more words from the same century

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on retribution

What made you want to look up retribution? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a sum of money that is sent as a payment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

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!