sanction

noun
sanc·​tion | \ ˈsaŋ(k)-shən How to pronounce sanction (audio) \

Definition of sanction

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a formal decree especially : an ecclesiastical decree
2a obsolete : a solemn agreement : oath
b : something that makes an oath binding
3 : the detriment, loss of reward, or coercive intervention annexed to a violation of a law as a means of enforcing the law
4a : a consideration, principle, or influence (as of conscience) that impels to moral action or determines moral judgment
b : a mechanism of social control for enforcing a society's standards
c : explicit or official approval, permission, or ratification : approbation
5 : an economic or military coercive measure adopted usually by several nations in concert for forcing a nation violating international law to desist or yield to adjudication

sanction

verb
sanctioned; sanctioning\ ˈsaŋ(k)-​sh(ə-​)niŋ How to pronounce sanctioning (audio) \

Definition of sanction (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make valid or binding usually by a formal procedure (such as ratification)
2 : to give effective or authoritative approval or consent to … such characters … look, talk, and act in ways sanctioned by society and novelistic tradition …— Lawrence Chua
3a : to attach a sanction or penalty to the violation of (a right, obligation, or command) … the status, procedures, rights, and duties of members are carefully defined by rules that are sanctioned by fines should they be contravened by members.— Malcolm Ruel
b : to impose a sanction or penalty upon … a Long Island brokerage firm that, at the time, had serious Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC fraud charges pending against it and has since been heavily fined and sanctioned.— Molly Ivins

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Other Words from sanction

Verb

sanctionable \ ˈsaŋ(k)-​sh(ə-​)nə-​bəl How to pronounce sanctionable (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for sanction

Verb

approve, endorse, sanction, accredit, certify mean to have or express a favorable opinion of. approve often implies no more than this but may suggest considerable esteem or admiration. the parents approve of the marriage endorse suggests an explicit statement of support. publicly endorsed her for Senator sanction implies both approval and authorization. the President sanctioned covert operations accredit and certify usually imply official endorsement attesting to conformity to set standards. the board voted to accredit the college must be certified to teach

Sanction Has Legal Origins

Verb

Sanction can also be a noun meaning "authoritative approval" or "a coercive measure." The noun entered English first, in the 15th century, and originally referred to a formal decree, especially an ecclesiastical decree. (The Latin sancire, meaning "to make holy," is an ancestor.) By the end of the 17th century, the meaning of the noun "sanction" had extended to refer to both a means of enforcing a law (a sense that in the 20th century we began using especially for economic penalties against nations violating international law) and the process of formally approving or ratifying a law. When the verb "sanction" appeared in the 18th century, it had to do with ratifying laws as well. Soon it had also acquired an additional, looser sense: "to approve."

Examples of sanction in a Sentence

Noun

The country acted without the sanction of the other nations. Their policy has legal sanction.

Verb

The government has sanctioned the use of force. His actions were not sanctioned by his superiors.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

These private bodies lack the authority to audit clinics or sanction members that violate its guidelines. Dov Fox, WIRED, "What Happens When Reproductive Tech Like IVF Goes Awry?," 17 July 2019 Cooling tensions could raise the chances that the Trump administration's will eventually lift its punishing sanctions on Iran. Matt Egan, CNN, "Oil prices sink on signs of easing Iran tensions," 16 July 2019 Beyond national security, the Justice Department also argued that Qualcomm has a solid case on appeal, and that Judge Koh imposed harsh requirements without holding an evidentiary hearing, which the Justice Department sought prior to sanctions. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Qualcomm gets support from Justice Department, others in anti-trust appeal," 16 July 2019 North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty led to sanctions. Ian Johnstone, The Conversation, "What is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Here’s why it’s still important," 15 July 2019 Other countries may face consequences (typically sanctions) for their failure to comply with international agreements, but the way international organizations—and the world—are set up makes the US essentially unaccountable. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "Trump’s latest plan to deny asylum seekers protection is illegal," 15 July 2019 The Iranian tanker Grace 1 was captured earlier this month on suspicion of breaking European Union sanctions, according to the BBC. Fox News, "Detained Iranian tanker will be released if oil isn't bound for Syria, UK foreign secretary says," 13 July 2019 But President Trump withdrew America from the deal last year and reimposed sanctions. The Economist, "Politics this week," 13 July 2019 One key date the Europeans are awaiting is Aug. 2, when the U.S. must decide whether to roll over its final sanctions exemptions connected to the nuclear deal. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Europe Set to Delay Iran Dispute Decision, Despite U.S. Pressure," 12 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the early 20th century, the practice became officially sanctioned. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "The US Women's Soccer Team Is Getting a Ticker-Tape Parade in New York. Here's What That Means.," 10 July 2019 Worse, since 2016, the government has stopped sanctioning new watershed projects. Aarefa Johari, Quartz India, "An investigation into how India dismantled its main defence against drought," 1 July 2019 In an effort to clean up the messiness and offer increased exposure to a wider array of talent, the NCAA created sanctioned showcases in partnership with states' high school athletics associations. Robert Rimpson, The Courier-Journal, "NCAA recruiting showcases give Bellarmine and WKU a better shot at prospects," 18 June 2019 Enjoy a night out: Observatory Park is offering free outdoor movies in the area’s only sanctioned dark-sky park. Joan Rusek, cleveland.com, "Laurel student Claire Fedor builds bridges to her future: Valley Views," 7 June 2019 Though not a focus of the Epic 5, times must be reported to USA Triathlon, which sanctions the event, Morgan said. Janene Holzberg, baltimoresun.com, "For Columbia triathlete Suzy Serpico, conquering this challenge was epic," 7 June 2019 But at the very least, the incident highlights – in bright red – the psychic devastation the Trump administration is sanctioning on a daily basis. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Honduran Man Killed Himself After Being Separated From Family at Border," 9 June 2018 Griffin also sanctioned Pattakos for communicating with reporters at Cleveland Scene magazine and urging them to write about the case. Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com, "Judge doubles award to pair who sued Chagrin Falls nanny school over sex abuse cover-up," 11 June 2019 The only Democratic lawmaker to vote against it was Senator Bernie Sanders, who spoke on the floor of his fear that sanctioning Iran would lead Iran to exit JCPOA. Tyler Bellstrom, The New Republic, "The Biggest Barrier to a Leftist Foreign Policy: Democrats," 11 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sanction.' 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 sanction

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1778, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sanction

Noun

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin sanction-, sanctio, from sancire to make holy — more at sacred

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Statistics for sanction

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sanction

The first known use of sanction was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for sanction

sanction

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sanction

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal
: an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc.
: official permission or approval

sanction

verb

English Language Learners Definition of sanction (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : to officially accept or allow (something)

sanction

noun
sanc·​tion | \ ˈsaŋk-shən How to pronounce sanction (audio) \

Kids Definition of sanction

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : official approval or permission The soldiers' conduct did not have the king's sanction.
2 : an action (as the ending of financial aid) taken by one or more nations to make another nation comply with a law or rule

sanction

verb
sanctioned; sanctioning

Kids Definition of sanction (Entry 2 of 2)

: to officially accept or allow The coaches sanctioned the new rule.

sanction

noun
sanc·​tion | \ ˈsaŋk-shən How to pronounce sanction (audio) \

Legal Definition of sanction

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a punitive or coercive measure or action that results from failure to comply with a law, rule, or order a sanction for contempt
2 : explicit or official approval
3 : an economic or military coercive measure adopted usually by several nations in concert for forcing a nation violating international law to desist or yield to adjudication

sanction

transitive verb

Legal Definition of sanction (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to give official approval or consent to : ratify
2 : to impose a sanction on sanctioned the lawyer for professional misconduct

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