sanction

noun
sanc·tion | \ˈsaŋ(k)-shən \

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 \

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 \ 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

The enforcement of those sanctions will continue until denuclearization is complete. Fortune, "U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo Dismisses North Korea Criticism of Pyongyang Negotiations," 8 July 2018 The latest round of sanctions comes after Maduro pushed through elections on May 20 that the E.U., the United States and more than a dozen Latin American nations denounced as being illegitimate. Jim Wyss, miamiherald, "European Union hits 11 more Venezuelans with sanctions," 25 June 2018 The Security Council plans to vote Friday on a resolution that would impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against a current deputy defense chief and former army chief. Fox News, "UN to vote on arms embargo and new sanctions on South Sudan," 13 July 2018 Washington alleges have often been in violation of the international body’s sanctions against Pyongyang, according to people familiar with the matter. Ian Talley, WSJ, "U.S. Calls Out China, Russia on North Korea Energy Caps, Urges U.N. Action," 12 July 2018 Trump first floated the idea of sending the U.S. military to Venezuela during an Oval Office discussion of sanctions against the South American nation. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Report: Trump Had to Be Convinced Not to Invade Venezuela," 4 July 2018 His release, along with several other political prisoners in 2015, led to the lifting of most of the European sanctions against Belarus. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire celebrating 100-year milestones," 28 June 2018 Coach Petrino is still looking for a playmaking leader Both contracts include a clause dictating that the school and ESPN renegotiate the fee if one of the schools is placed under NCAA sanctions. Jake Lourim, The Courier-Journal, "Alabama will get $1.75 million more than Louisville for football game," 20 June 2018 In early March, as U.S.-China trade spats were still focused on technology policy and possible violation of sanctions against Iran, the new film Amazing China hit theaters across the country. Matthew Chitwood, The New Republic, "Tea and Tariffs in Rural Yunnan," 15 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The American Automobile Association, then the sanctioning body of Indy-car racing, knew France’s series was rapidly becoming a competitor, so the A.A.A. threw him out of the speedway. Dave Caldwell, New York Times, "The Forgotten Figure Behind Daytona International Speedway," 7 July 2018 While this will not necessarily translate to a change in votes in a future election, the more public discourse focuses on the importance of honesty, the more politicians across the political spectrum will likely be sanctioned for violating it. Jared Mcdonald, Candace Turitto, Vox, "Honesty first: how to make politicians pay for lying," 2 July 2018 The film is the first to be officially sanctioned by the singer’s estate and features interviews with her friends and family — like her mother Cissy and ex-husband Bobby Brown. Ale Russian, PEOPLE.com, "Whitney Houston Shades Paula Abdul in Trailer for Documentary: 'That Girl Is Singing Off-Key'," 16 May 2018 Uber is participating in a test sanctioned by U.S. regulators to deliver food by drones in San Diego, according to Khosrowshahi. Johana Bhuiyan, Recode, "Uber’s CEO says he’s willing to lose money on flying cars — at first," 10 May 2018 In the history of the platform, how many times were developers sanctioned by Facebook for the misuse of Facebook user data? Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic, "What Congress Should Ask Mark Zuckerberg," 28 Mar. 2018 The time trial will be sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for sports cycling, and feature $35,000 in prize money split equally between men and women. Chadd Cripe, idahostatesman, "Kristin Armstrong to bring elite cycling race to Boise area this summer | Idaho Statesman," 1 Mar. 2018 The tests sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control—ELISA and Western Blot—look only for anti-bodies and are notorious for giving both false positives and false negatives. Marcia Desanctis, Town & Country, "Is a Cure For Lyme Disease On the Horizon?," 11 May 2017 Manchester United have no intentions of sanctioning a deal for Anthony Martial to leave Old Trafford this summer, despite the forward's desire to do so. SI.com, "Manchester United Rule Out Anthony Martial Exit This Summer Amid Reports of Desire to Leave," 14 June 2018

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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Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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)

: 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)

: to officially accept or allow (something)

sanction

noun
sanc·tion | \ˈsaŋk-shən \

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 \

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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