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

The relationship is likely to become more significant as a deadline nears for India to comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran, one of India’s main oil providers. Ashok Sharma, The Seattle Times, "Saudi crown prince backs India’s fight against terrorism," 20 Feb. 2019 For decades, the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty adopted in 1992, had struggled to develop a legally binding agreement, with formal sanctions for failure. David Roberts, Vox, "The “Trump effect” threatens the future of the Paris climate agreement," 3 Dec. 2018 The move came as European banks close their doors to Iranian business because of reimposed U.S. sanctions following President Trump’s decision last May to exit from the nuclear agreement. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Pence’s Calls to Pressure Iran Fall on Deaf Ears in Europe," 17 Feb. 2019 The latest campaign started weeks before the US reimposed sanctions on Iran’s government in early November. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Iranian phishers bypass 2fa protections offered by Yahoo Mail and Gmail," 13 Dec. 2018 Trump would nonetheless pull the U.S. from the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran last month. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Pompeo slams Kerry for 'actively undermining' the US with Iran shadow diplomacy," 15 Sep. 2018 But Trump has nevertheless sought to line up support against Tehran as the United States prepares to reimpose sanctions on its energy sector. Stanley Reed, BostonGlobe.com, "Producers promised more oil — so why are prices rising?," 4 July 2018 Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said that all U.S. sanctions will remain in force for now. Anne Gearan, chicagotribune.com, "Trump declares North Korea still a threat, despite his claim after historic summit," 23 June 2018 And the firm itself could be hit with sanctions for its connections to Mr Gertler. The Economist, "Glencore dodges American sanctions rather than spurn its friends," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The first-ever sanctioned Farming Simulator competition took place at AgriTechnica 2017, a farm-tech expo in Hanover, Germany. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "There's Real Money in Virtual Farming," 23 Jan. 2019 According to the State Department, all of the people sanctioned on Thursday worked in the Saudi government at the time of the journalist’s murder. Alex Ward, Vox, "Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it.," 15 Nov. 2018 Rather than being a story sanctioned by the royal family's press office, the interview was reportedly given without prior permission. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Palace Reportedly Didn't Know Meghan Markle's Friends Were Talking to the Press," 9 Feb. 2019 Facebook has asked that Six4Three’s attorneys be sanctioned and held in contempt of court. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Facebook pondered, for a time, selling access to user data," 29 Nov. 2018 Just five months ago, North Korea was isolated, heavily-sanctioned and with even fewer diplomatic friends following the assassination of Kim's exiled older half brother, Kim Jong Nam in 2017. Ben Westcott, CNN, "Why meeting a US President is the ultimate aim of the Kim family," 4 June 2018 These presidents have hired coaches who have histories of running programs that have been sanctioned by the NCAA, but have also taken teams to the NCAA Tournament, where prestige and money accumulate with every victory. Elton Alexander, cleveland.com, "NCAA must clean up its act from the top down, not the bottom up," 26 Apr. 2018 The event was sanctioned by EA Sports, which plays home to many professional gaming events. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "Pro gamers react to Jacksonville shooting amid 'Madden NFL 19' tournament," 27 Aug. 2018 For reference, Major League Soccer is sanctioned as Division I. Hartford joins seven other locations granted expansion teams for 2019: Oakland East Bay, Austin, Birmingham, Memphis, Chicago, Albuquerque and El Paso. Shawn Mcfarland, courant.com, "Everything You Need To Know About The USL And Hartford's New Pro Soccer Team," 12 July 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

16 Mar 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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