sen·​tence | \ ˈsen-tᵊn(t)s How to pronounce sentence (audio) , -tᵊnz\

Definition of sentence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 obsolete : opinion especially : a conclusion given on request or reached after deliberation
2a : judgment sense 4a specifically : one formally pronounced by a court or judge in a criminal proceeding and specifying the punishment to be inflicted upon the convict
b : the punishment so imposed serve out a sentence
3 archaic : maxim, saw
4a : a word, clause, or phrase or a group of clauses or phrases forming a syntactic unit which expresses an assertion, a question, a command, a wish, an exclamation, or the performance of an action, that in writing usually begins with a capital letter and concludes with appropriate end punctuation, and that in speaking is distinguished by characteristic patterns of stress, pitch, and pauses
b : a mathematical or logical statement (such as an equation or a proposition) in words or symbols


sentenced; sentencing

Definition of sentence (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to impose a sentence on
2 : to cause to suffer something sentenced these most primitive cultures to extinction— E. W. Count

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Synonyms for sentence

Synonyms: Noun

doom, finding, holding, judgment (or judgement), ruling

Synonyms: Verb

condemn, damn, doom

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Examples of sentence in a Sentence


He is serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.


The defendant was sentenced and fined. the judge sentenced him to a fine of $50 and time served
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Subsequent sentences cannot be suspended and jail time increases with each violation. Roy S. Johnson,, "SPLC says it will ‘likely’ sue if Montgomery mayor does not veto panhandling ordinance," 10 July 2019 The agreed upon sentence was 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail. Deanna Paul, The Denver Post, "Jeffrey Epstein, the politically connected financier with ties to Trump and Clinton," 8 July 2019 Shih’s sentence will be determined at a later date. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "Professor faces 219-year prison sentence for sending missile chip tech to China," 6 July 2019 Yes, that sentence kinda reads like a weird mad libs, but keep up! Rachel Paige,, "Spider-Man: Far From Home," 5 July 2019 Until the recent Supreme Court ruling, judges had little leeway for leniency, since various crimes carried mandatory sentences. The Economist, "Learn the law, hope for freedom," 4 July 2019 Rosser was convicted of capital murder in March, drawing an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole. Sarah Sarder, Dallas News, "McKinney woman gets 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to her role in planning husband's murder," 3 July 2019 Biology is a field that relies heavily on the transferability of its results: one sentence in a biology textbook may have been derived from experiments in different animals and different contexts. Ryan Dalton, Scientific American, "Decoding the Language of Neurons," 2 July 2019 In November 2015, a federal judge slapped Jones with a four-year sentence followed by three years of probation after a firearms conviction, according to federal court records. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "He escaped federal custody and then killed an Indianapolis DJ, police say," 28 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Has a pretty simple and wildly surprising: Iaquinta has been sentenced to two years in prison for 'illegally holding firearms' for the 'Ndrangheta mafia in the north of Italy., "Italy vs France: Where the 2006 World Cup Winners Are Today," 9 July 2019 The former executive of a senior center who admitted to embezzling thousands of dollars has been sentenced to a month in jail. USA TODAY, "Ink library, parking barnacles, lunar training grounds: News from around our 50 states," 9 July 2019 Federal prosecutors say a Maryland woman has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for wire fraud in a scheme to defraud at least five people of more than $1.2 million., "Maryland woman sentenced to 18 months in prison for scamming victims of $1.2 million," 9 July 2019 The last of three people accused in a a series of crimes in Evanston last year has been sentenced to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, officials with the Cook County Clerk’s Office said Monday. Brian L. Cox,, "Evanston man pleads guilty to attempted robbery in series of crimes, officials say," 9 July 2019 Allen gets probation Jerome Allen, a Celtics assistant, has been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay a fine for accepting $300,000 in bribes to get a wealthy Florida businessman’s son into the University of Pennsylvania., "Ben Simmons set to receive $170m extension from 76ers," 2 July 2019 The Justice Department announced this week that former Equifax CIO Jun Ying has been sentenced to four months in prison for insider trading. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Former Equifax executive sentenced to prison for insider trading prior to data breach," 29 June 2019 The man who drove a car through a group of counter-protesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others, has been sentenced to life in prison, CNN reports. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Charlottesville Attacker Who Killed Heather Heyer Sentenced to Life in Prison," 29 June 2019 White supremacist James Fields, who plowed into protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, killing a woman and injuring others, has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to avoid the death penalty. Fox News, "White supremacist convicted of murder in Charlottesville attack gets life in prison," 28 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sentence.' 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 sentence


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sentence


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin sententia feeling, opinion, from *sentent-, *sentens, irregular present participle of sentire to feel — more at sense

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Statistics for sentence

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sentence

The first known use of sentence was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for sentence



English Language Learners Definition of sentence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a group of words that expresses a statement, question, command, or wish
law : the punishment given by a court of law



English Language Learners Definition of sentence (Entry 2 of 2)

law : to officially state the punishment given to (someone) by a court of law


sen·​tence | \ ˈsen-tᵊns How to pronounce sentence (audio) \

Kids Definition of sentence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a group of words that makes a statement, asks a question, or expresses a command, wish, or exclamation
2 : punishment set by a court He served a sentence for robbery.
3 : a mathematical statement (as an equation) in words or symbols


sentenced; sentencing

Kids Definition of sentence (Entry 2 of 2)

: to set the punishment of The judge sentenced the prisoner.


sen·​tence | \ ˈsent-ᵊns, -ᵊnz How to pronounce sentence (audio) \

Legal Definition of sentence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a judgment formally pronouncing the punishment to be inflicted on one convicted of a crime
2 : the punishment that one convicted of a crime is ordered to receive
concurrent sentence
: a sentence that runs at the same time as another
consecutive sentence
: a sentence that runs before or after another
cumulative sentence
: consecutive sentence in this entry also : the combination of two or more consecutive sentences
death sentence
: a sentence condemning the convicted defendant to death
determinate sentence \ di-​ˈtər-​mə-​nət-​ \
: a sentence for a fixed rather than indeterminate length of time
general sentence
: a sentence that does not allocate the punishment imposed for the individual counts on which the defendant was convicted

Note: General sentences are impermissible.

indeterminate sentence \ ˌin-​di-​ˈtər-​mə-​nət-​ \
: a sentence of minimum and maximum duration with the exact length to be later determined (as by a parole board)
life sentence
: a sentence of imprisonment for the rest of the convicted defendant's life
mandatory sentence
: a sentence that is specifically required or falls within a range required by statute as punishment for an offense imposed the minimum mandatory sentence for distributing drugs near a school
presumptive sentence
: a sentence that is the presumed punishment for an offense and is subject to the upward or downward adjustment of its severity depending on aggravating and mitigating factors
split sentence
: a sentence of which part is served in prison and the other suspended and usually replaced by probation
suspended sentence
: a sentence the imposition or execution of which is suspended by the court


transitive verb
sentenced; sentencing

Legal Definition of sentence (Entry 2 of 2)

: to impose a sentence on

History and Etymology for sentence


Old French, opinion, judicial sentence, from Latin sententia, ultimately from sentire to feel, think, express an opinion

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Comments on sentence

What made you want to look up sentence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to complain fretfully

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