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

Among other things, the bill calls for suspending weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and imposing mandatory sanctions on all those responsible for Khashoggi’s death and those blocking humanitarian access to Yemen. Deb Riechmann, The Seattle Times, "Trump’s embrace of Saudi Arabia causes GOP rift," 21 Nov. 2018 Since May, prices have also been affected by Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and to impose sanctions blocking American and most European companies from Iran’s market. Jake Meth, Fortune, "Trump Wants to Blame OPEC for High Oil Prices. But He’s Much More at Fault," 29 June 2018 Never mind that Congress, and the Europeans, want to maintain sanctions on Russia because the Kremlin refuses to butt out of Ukraine. Trudy Rubin, Philly.com, "Analysis: Trump gets his summit with Putin. Watch out! | Trudy Rubin," 27 June 2018 The sanctions, known as Magnitsky Act penalties, targeted top Saudi officials, but not MBS himself. Rachel Withers, Vox, "CIA reportedly concludes that Jamal Khashoggi was killed on the Saudi crown prince’s orders," 17 Nov. 2018 In response to the journalist’s probable murder, a number of congressmen are urging immediate sanctions on Saudi Arabia. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: Jared Kushner Is a Hidden Genius," 14 Oct. 2018 After their passage, Trump has failed to enforce the sanctions as directed. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 2018 That was evident in the case of telecommunications giant ZTE, which was paralyzed after the Trump administration initially prohibited American firms from selling parts to ZTE for violating certain U.S. sanctions. Don Lee, latimes.com, "U.S. and China slap big tariffs on each other, escalating trade fight," 6 July 2018 Meanwhile, Iran’s first vice president said the country’s private sector will be able to buy and export crude oil under a new plan to combat U.S. sanctions. Amir Vahdat, USA TODAY, "Iran warns against oil production boost after Trump tweet," 1 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That law allows the U.S. to sanction human-rights offenders overseas by freezing their financial assets and banning them from travel to the U.S. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Putin’s Man at Interpol," 20 Nov. 2018 Tottenham are prepared to sanction Toby Alderweireld's move to rivals Manchester United, as long as their valuation of the defender is met. SI.com, "Tottenham Open to Sanctioning Toby Alderweireld's Move to Man Utd on One Condition," 12 July 2018 Flake didn’t feel compelled to use his formal authorities to sanction praise for white nationalists, the systematic abuse of immigrant children, or the president’s constant attacks on the free press and federal law enforcement. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Jeff Flake Flakes, Says He Won’t Block Trump’s Supreme Court Pick," 28 June 2018 The admistration is moving to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the ban on offshore drilling, has rolled back environmental regulations, and is failing to adequately sanction violations of environmental rules. BostonGlobe.com, "Should Massachusetts divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies?," 15 June 2018 Complaints are confidential unless a finding is made to sanction or reprimand the individual, Lucian Chalfen, Director of Public Information at the Unified Court System, said in an email statement. Eli Rosenberg And Marwa Eltagouri, courant.com, "Lawyer who threatened to call ICE about Spanish speakers is now target of complaint," 18 May 2018 The owners of Maryland’s three largest casinos — Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Live Casino & Hotel and MGM National Harbor in Prince George's County — have said states should have the authority to sanction sports betting. Jeff Barker, baltimoresun.com, "Supreme Court clears way for sports betting and Maryland casinos want in," 14 May 2018 And who in the company was empowered to sanction rogue developers of third-party apps? Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, "The 3 Questions Mark Zuckerberg Hasn’t Answered," 11 Apr. 2018 Condominium law has already developed to sanction condo-hotels as an ownership class where the condo unit owners voluntarily consent to renting their units in a rental pool with an operating structure similar to a hotel. Anthony Graziano, miamiherald, "When does a house stop being a house? (And start being an office or a hotel?) | Miami Herald," 16 Mar. 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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Statistics for sanction

Last Updated

7 Dec 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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