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

Despite calls from members of the U.S. Congress urging Trump to impose sanctions on corrupt officials in the Guatemalan government, critics say the Trump administration has turned a blind eye. Lauren Bohn, Marie Claire, "Who Killed Claudia Gomez?," 2 May 2019 President Bill Clinton apparently used national emergencies powers in foreign relations, as his emergencies still in effect were responses to Cuba shooting down civilian planes and declaring sanctions against Sudan, which Trump has extended. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Donald Trump Is Threatening to Declare a National Emergency to Get Border Wall Funding. Here's Why He Shouldn’t.," 11 Jan. 2019 Kim’s apparent olive branch to South Korea and the U.S. comes after months of mounting sanctions against the volatile regime. Katherine Lam, Fox News, "Trump warns 'world is watching' after North Korea says it's willing to give up nuclear weapons," 2 Oct. 2018 Beijing could, for instance, decide to stop helping the US put economic pressure on North Korea to try to rein in its nuclear program by neglecting to enforce sanctions. Zeeshan Aleem, Vox, "China might have already begun the US-China trade war," 5 July 2018 The Treasury also identified 34 vessels as blocked property of Venezuela’s oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, which was placed under sanctions in January. Mengqi Sun, WSJ, "U.S. Places Sanctions on Vessel, Companies for Delivering Venezuelan Oil to Cuba," 5 Apr. 2019 Intrater is the American cousin of Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch whose company is under US sanctions. Alex Finley - Center For Public Integrity, Vox, "How Russian money and influence slipped through cracks in the US legal system," 25 Oct. 2018 The official specifically noted Kim’s regime is pushing forward with building ICBMs — the missiles that caused the North Korea to be placed under heavy sanctions. Benjamin Brown, Fox News, "North Korea possibly constructing new ICBMs, missile program moving on 'business as usual,' official says," 2 Oct. 2018 Media: Euronews Zanganeh's dissent reflects the fact that its petroleum industry is coming under fresh U.S. sanctions. Wael Mahdi, Houston Chronicle, "OPEC seeks last minute compromise as Iran opposes supply boost," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Dominating someone While not as socially sanctioned for women as submissiveness, fantasies of being in control in the bedroom are super fun and quite common, with 47 percent of women admitting to having had this fantasy. Kate Sloan, Glamour, "25 Sex Fantasies Women Have That Are Totally Normal," 6 Apr. 2019 Understanding the impulse to wash chicken doesn’t mean food safety experts sanction it, though. Cassie Shortsleeve, SELF, "Should You Be Washing Chicken Before You Cook It?," 10 Apr. 2019 The other members of the alliance would never sanction it, but that’s besides the point. Ian Bremmer, Time, "Trump and Putin Will Call Their Summit a Success. But Don't Expect U.S.-Russia Relations to Improve," 6 July 2018 Patterson transferred from Ole Miss after the Rebels were sanctioned by the NCAA last year. Mark Heim, AL.com, "Jim Harbaugh has idea on how to 'fix' transfer rule on heels of Shea Patterson eligibility," 30 Apr. 2018 Netflix sanctioned it, and it was officially released this past Friday (July 6). Judy Cantor-navas, Billboard, "Show Me The Money! Burak Yeter Drops Remix of 'Money Heist' Theme," 9 July 2018 It is scheduled to meet June 21 to determine if she should be sanctioned. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, "'25 Again' doctor’s license on the line in attack on hormone therapy," 14 June 2018 Under Trump, the U.S. has sanctioned several Russians close to President Vladimir Putin and his circle. Jaclyn Gallucci, Fortune, "Trump: Russia Should Be Allowed Back Into G-8 Bloc," 8 June 2018 Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, has lost some 15 percent on the stock market this week even though it was not sanctioned. Anton Troianovski, BostonGlobe.com, "Kremlin backers warn of threat of war with US as Syria tensions rise," 10 Apr. 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

25 May 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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