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 sanction (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 sanction (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 So the Court refuses again today, but merely makes imposition of that severe sanction a practical impossibility. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Blame Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court’s Mangled Ruling on Juvenile Life Without Parole," 23 Apr. 2021 Producers who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the allegations have spoken of some sanction by the Broadway League, whose members are Broadway producers and theater owners. Peter Marks, Anchorage Daily News, "Broadway producer Scott Rudin steps aside amid accusations of abusive behavior going back decades, apologizes for pain he caused," 18 Apr. 2021 Lavrov condemned the European Union’s decision this week to sanction Iranian security officials involved in a violent crackdown on protests that took place in 2019. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Russia backs 'our Iranian friends' against Biden in nuclear talks," 13 Apr. 2021 On the same day, the US announced a decision to sanction 24 Hong Kong and Chinese officials in response to new restrictions on democracy in Hong Kong that will further curb the right of people in the city to stand for election. Ben Westcott, CNN, "China's ambassador to US says he doesn't have 'high expectations' for Alaska summit with Biden officials," 18 Mar. 2021 The sanction, the largest fine allowed under the NBA’s current collective-bargaining agreement, comes after the 7-foot center was heard uttering an anti-Semitic slur while live-streaming his video-game play on Monday. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Heat’s Meyers Leonard fined the maximum, admonished by NBA commissioner Adam Silver," 11 Mar. 2021 But the bar’s three-person disciplinary committee that oversaw the conference determined the sanction did not go far enough and recommended the 72-year-old Ard be suspended for a year, according to its opinion issued Wednesday. Garrett Andrews, oregonlive, "Oregon lawyer may lose license over soccer coach dispute, ‘harmful use of the legal system’," 16 Apr. 2021 But analysts believe that Iran will not accept leaving that sanction in place. BostonGlobe.com, "Iran nuclear talks start on positive note in Vienna," 9 Apr. 2021 The administration must focus on freeing the Americans unjustly imprisoned in Iran, before a single sanction is lifted. Elliott Abrams, National Review, "Will Biden’s Return to the Iran Deal Abandon American Prisoners Held There — Again?," 6 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The executive order also allows the U.S. government to sanction any part of the Russian economy, which will make U.S. firms think twice about doing business in Russia. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Bad Day for Vladimir Putin," 15 Apr. 2021 Days later, the heads of the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards would officially sanction Ain’s choice, allowing rabbis to temporarily ignore the 2001 ruling for the duration of the pandemic. Ben Harris, sun-sentinel.com, "Conservative Jews consider whether to make Zoom prayer permanent," 14 Apr. 2021 There can be no trans justice without broader economic justice, and there can be no broader economic justice without understanding the many, many ways power attempts to divide and sanction us based on our demographics. Jes Skolnik, Harper's BAZAAR, "Trans Liberation? There's Not an App for That," 12 Apr. 2021 China’s decision to sanction an array of European officials and analysts in retaliation for the Western moves on behalf of the Uyghurs only ensured that the Chinese representative in Germany would also receive a tongue-lashing. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Biden's moves against China remind Europe it doesn't have Trump to kick around anymore," 25 Mar. 2021 The DLive spokesman said the decision to sanction his channel was unrelated to CNN's inquiry, and that the suspension amounts to a permanent ban. Rob Kuznia, CNN, "How White nationalists evade the law and continue profiting off hate," 19 Feb. 2021 Walkouts by Republicans in Oregon's Legislature have become so frequent, with GOP lawmakers torpedoing progressive legislation, that Democrats want to sanction boycotters with $500 daily fines and even disqualify them from holding office. Andrew Selsky, ajc, "In Oregon, Democrats seek to end GOP boycotts of Legislature," 19 Mar. 2021 Book said the Biden administration could still yet sanction other entities in another report due in May. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy, sponsored by EFP: Is Biden standing down on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline?," 22 Feb. 2021 The United States and the European Union are preparing to sanction Russia for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who was recently jailed, according to senior officials from President Biden’s administration, Chris Megerian reports. Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times, "Essential Politics: Kamala Harris enters a supermarket — and a security bubble," 3 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for sanction

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for sanction

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sanction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanction. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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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Comments on sanction

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