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

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 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

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

12 Jun 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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