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 policy aims to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons through economic and military pressure, including sanctions, following Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year. Helen Regan, CNN, "Pompeo hints that Trump could meet with Iranian President at UN meeting," 11 Sep. 2019 The deal had been negotiated by the Obama administration to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions, and some in the administration favored staying in the agreement. Washington Post, "A look at John Bolton’s tenure in Trump administration," 10 Sep. 2019 Later, Leeds themselves released a statement acknowledging the sanctions, but decrying the severity of the punishment. SI.com, "Leeds United's Jordan Stevens Hit With 6-Week Ban Following Breach of Betting Regulations," 10 Sep. 2019 Trump has threatened war with Russia, sanctions on Germany, and tariffs on Europe. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "Firing John Bolton Doesn’t Make You a Pacifist," 10 Sep. 2019 Tensions have been high between the countries since Mr. Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions, including on Iran's oil industry. CBS News, "Iran admits rocket exploded after technical malfunction," 2 Sep. 2019 Tensions have been high between the countries since Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions, including on Iran's oil industry. Jon Gambrell, chicagotribune.com, "Trump tweets high-quality, possibly declassified surveillance photo of Iranian rocket launch pad," 31 Aug. 2019 Tensions have been high between the countries since Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions, including on Iran's oil industry. Jon Gambrell, Anchorage Daily News, "Satellite photos show apparent rocket explosion Iranian launch pad," 29 Aug. 2019 Iran now faces two fronts, the sanctions and strikes, that together are designed to blow the lid on its regional strategy. Seth J. Frantzman, National Review, "Israel’s Strategy against Tehran: Revealing the Iranian Threat," 27 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 her line of work, Campion has seen many problem gamblers among those who also access legal and government-sanctioned gambling. Rubén Rosario, Twin Cities, "Rosario: You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, and when to get help," 16 June 2019 The polls, which on the list sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, appear unlikely to help any other candidates qualify for the next round of debates in Houston in September. Elizabeth Wasserman, BostonGlobe.com, "Will it be one night or two? Candidates face Wednesday deadline to qualify for September debates," 28 Aug. 2019 Of the 18 sports sanctioned by the CIAC, 11 saw participation declines — including football, which lost players for the sixth time in seven years. Shawn Mcfarland, courant.com, "Connecticut high school sports participation drops for the first time in over a decade, mirroring national trend," 28 Aug. 2019 In unflinching and often graphic terms, the documentary shows the obscene human impact of the one-child policy: forced sterilizations and terminations, kidnappings sanctioned by local officials, and untold numbers of newborns left to their deaths. Han Zhang, The New Yorker, "In “One Child Nation,” Nanfu Wang Confronts China’s History, and Her Own," 27 Aug. 2019 Eritrea, on the Horn of Africa on the coast above Ethiopia, was for several years sanctioned by the United Nations which charged that the government violated several international treaties. Washington Post, "Rights group says Eritrea high schools center of repression," 9 Aug. 2019 So candidates had to meet one of two criteria: Appeal to 65,000 donors, with at least 200 coming from 20 different states, or receive 1% or more support in three state or national polls sanctioned by the DNC. Los Angeles Times, "What time is the July Democratic presidential debate this week and who will be on stage?," 29 July 2019 According to Human Rights Watch, the roundups in 2017 were carried out by law enforcement officials and sanctioned by top-level Chechen authorities. Katy Steinmetz, Time, "A Victim of the Anti-Gay Purge in Chechnya Speaks Out: 'The Truth Exists'," 26 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

14 Sep 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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