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

Many commentators have characterized the law as an austere but reasonable sanction: At the time of the policy’s adoption, China’s government forecast widespread famine as the country’s population neared 1 billion people. Brandon Yu, The Atlantic, "One Child Nation Paints a Harrowing Picture of an Infamous Policy," 13 Aug. 2019 Conditions worsened after the Trump administration, angered over Mr. Maduro’s rhetoric and repressive tactics, backed the opposition and imposed sanctions that crippled the oil industry. Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, "Venezuela’s Maduro Cracks Down on His Own Military in Bid to Retain Power," 13 Aug. 2019 Declining oil prices and sanctions have squeezed the Kremlin, and the government had to push through unpopular measures last year, including increasing the retirement age. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The pro-democracy protests rocking Moscow, explained," 13 Aug. 2019 China is also exploiting America’s special trading relationship with Hong Kong to circumvent U.S. export controls, customs duties, and sanctions, as well as to conduct influence and espionage operations. Kristina Olney, National Review, "America Must Prevent Another Tiananmen Square and Stand for a Free Hong Kong," 12 Aug. 2019 Since Trump administration sanctions have shut Venezuelan oil from the U.S. market, the country is increasingly sending its product to Asia. Fortune, "The Week Trump and Xi Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Trade War—CEO Daily," 10 Aug. 2019 According to one estimate, U.S. sanctions since 2017 have caused the deaths of at least 40,000 by restricting access to funds needed for food, medicine, and other essential imports. Safiya Charles, The New Republic, "Trump’s Venezuela Policy Is Causing Turmoil in the Caribbean," 9 Aug. 2019 For months, rumors have circulated that Chinese tech giant Huawei was hard at work on a homegrown operating system, an increasingly necessary step toward independence after US sanctions prompted Google to sever ties. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "Huawei's HarmonyOS Is No Android Replacement," 9 Aug. 2019 Planned Parenthood also is asking the appeals panel to uphold sanctions the federal judge ordered against the Bevin administration. Deborah Yetter, The Courier-Journal, "With future of Kentucky's abortion clinic at stake, battle shifts to federal appeals court," 8 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Now, the Mail claim the free agent has his pick of where to go, although Corriere dello Sport state that Lazio have could sanction a move for him with Llorente wanting a three-year deal. SI.com, "Transfer Rumours: Chelsea Duo Wanted, Serie A Sides Chasing Llorente, Balotelli Makes Move & More," 14 Aug. 2019 Glendale Unified’s board approved a $4.75-million budget increase in July to raise the total allocation for Glendale High School’s CIF Southern Section sanctioned-sized pool to $15.7 million. Andrew J. Campa, Glendale News-Press, "Costly Glendale High School pool appears headed toward reality," 9 Aug. 2019 In 2001, aged just 15, Taylor fought Alanna Audley at the National Stadium in Dublin in what was the first officially sanctioned female boxing match in Ireland. Ben Morse And Becky Anderson, CNN, "From fighting 'as a boy' to undisputed champion. How Katie Taylor boxed clever," 7 Aug. 2019 Remember, this is the country that sanctions the murder of journalists and the civil war in Yemen. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Beware political infighting; Missing crucial Senate work; BLM move is suspect; The support Hong Kong needs (7/31/19)," 31 July 2019 WASHINGTON - Legislation sanctioning construction companies that help complete a controversial Russian pipeline delivering natural gas to Europe cleared a critical legislative hurdle Wednesday. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, "Cruz legislation targeting Russian pipeline moves ahead," 31 July 2019 German media had all but given up on the Bavarians' chances of sanctioning a deal for the Germany international, but Guardiola's recent comments admitting that Sane 'has to decide' on his future have renewed hope in Germany. SI.com, "Bayern Munich Postpone Traditional Squad Photo as Leroy Sane Transfer Saga Rumbles on," 30 July 2019 Pattis filed the appeal after Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis last month sanctioned Jones by preventing him from taking advantage of a special law to seek to have the lawsuit against him dismissed. Dave Altimari, courant.com, "Attorney: Supreme Court ruling upholding expulsion of CCSU student who built gun-firing drone could impact Alex Jones case," 29 July 2019 After meeting with Trump, Erdogan said publicly that the president had personally assured him the U.S. would not sanction Turkey. NBC News, "Trump asks GOP Senators for 'flexibility' on Turkey sanctions," 24 July 2019

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

17 Aug 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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