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

Essential Meaning of sentence

1 : a group of words that expresses a statement, question, command, or wish
2 law : the punishment given by a court of law a harsh/lenient sentence a prison/jail sentence See More ExamplesHe is serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery. The judge passed/pronounced sentence on him. [=announced what his punishment would be]Hide

Full Definition of sentence

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : 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
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
4 archaic : maxim, saw
5 obsolete : opinion especially : a conclusion given on request or reached after deliberation


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

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of sentence in a Sentence

Noun He is serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery. Verb 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 The government argued that the sentence was just and urged the court to reinstate it., 13 Oct. 2021 If convicted, the maximum sentence the couple could face is life imprisonment or death, according to the detention memo. Elizabeth Campbell, Kathryn Watson, CBS News, 12 Oct. 2021 The sentence is about the human being erased in that moment. Los Angeles Times, 6 Oct. 2021 Here is the full sentence: The Brooklyn Dodgers won their first World Series with Johnny Podres blanking the Yankees 2-0 in the seventh game., 5 Oct. 2021 That alarming sentence is from an update that Andy Johnsen, superintendent of the San Marcos Unified School District, sent to all parents on Sept. 10. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Sep. 2021 The maximum sentence each man may receive is life in prison. Dale Ellis, Arkansas Online, 22 Sep. 2021 The maximum sentence at the time for a juvenile was 10 years for homicide. Grace Kahng, ABC News, 16 Sep. 2021 The longest sentence handed out so far has been nine months given to the former CEO of the Pacific Investment Management Co., Douglas Hodge, who paid bribes totaling $850,000 to get four of his children into USC and Georgetown as athletic recruits. NBC News, 15 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Rosen said only a general court-martial, the military’s highest level trial court, can sentence service members to dishonorable discharge. Ella Lee, USA TODAY, 16 Oct. 2021 State officials have reduced the number of facilities from 12 in 2007, amid a push from judges to sentence fewer youth to detention. Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2021 The first step changes sentence words into something the computer can understand. Paul Smith-goodson, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 Retired Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia Cosgrove is set to sentence Mills at 11 a.m. at the Justice Center. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, 7 Oct. 2021 The enhancement allowed Peña to sentence Cardenas to 20 years in prison, the maximum. Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio Express-News, 29 Sep. 2021 Prosecutors are urging Woodlock to sentence Correia to 11 years in prison, while defense lawyers are recommending a three-year prison term, according to court filings., 20 Sep. 2021 Ricks even came in from his sickbed to sentence Nash. Mike Sager, Rolling Stone, 17 Sep. 2021 The trial judge couldn’t sentence Chism to life without parole eligibility, after the state’s highest court struck down such sentences for juveniles., 6 Oct. 2021

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 5


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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Time Traveler for sentence

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near sentence



sentence adverb

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Statistics for sentence

Last Updated

19 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sentence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for sentence


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

More from Merriam-Webster on sentence

Nglish: Translation of sentence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sentence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sentence


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