sen·​tence | \ˈsen-tᵊn(t)s, -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

Six of those counts had a maximum sentence of life in prison. Vogue, "Heather Heyer’s Murderer Faces Life in Prison Plus 419 Years," 11 Dec. 2018 The sentence Slomsky imposed, which also included more than $5.4 million in financial penalties, was less than that suggested by federal sentencing guidelines for her crimes. Jeremy Roebuck,, "Philly politico Renee Tartaglione sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison," 12 July 2018 Waukesha County Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez handed down the sentence July 6. Jane Ford-stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "West Allis man get 6 years in prison for selling heroin that killed 20-year-old," 11 July 2018 For example, Markle’s vowels might still sound American, but the lilt of the sentence might be less so. Cari Romm, The Cut, "Linguists Explain Meghan Markle’s Apparent New British Accent," 10 July 2018 After announcing the sentence Thursday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Judge William Hooks Hooks directed Hill, 20, to look at paintings and photographs of civil rights leaders hanging on the walls of his courtroom. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Man sentenced for hate crime in live-streamed beating of mentally disabled teen," 6 July 2018 The sentence includes credit for nearly a year spent behind bars, meaning Amster will be set free in about 25 days. Marc Freeman,, "Babysitter pleads guilty in 2015 death of infant, gets year in jail," 6 July 2018 The latter half of the sentence veers slightly upward, as if Markle's landing a question. Rebecca Farley,, "Meghan Markle's Brand Spanking New British Accent Sounds So Posh," 5 July 2018 The prosecuting attorney said the fact that Maxwell pointed a gun at the victim called for a more strict supervised probation rather than the unsupervised sentence that was imposed. Kimberly Rapanut, azcentral, "Oakland A's catcher sentenced to probation after Scottsdale gun incident," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Jesse Osborne faces 30 years to life in prison when he is sentenced at a later date. Jeffrey Collins, The Seattle Times, "SC teen pleads guilty to murder in death of father, boy," 12 Dec. 2018 Convicted of the then-crime of homosexuality, he was sentenced to years in prison and hard labor camps that brought about the end of his life. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "13 Best Movies Based on True Stories of 2018," 7 Nov. 2018 He had been arrested in January 2016 and accused of stealing a propaganda poster and was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Pompeo arrives in North Korea to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un," 2 Oct. 2018 Sharif, who was found guilty of corruption this month, arrived in Lahore on Friday evening after he and his daughter Maryam Nawaz — who was sentenced to seven years in the same case — boarded a plane from London. Antonio Olivo, Washington Post, "As former Pakistan leader returns to begin jail sentence, deadly bombing adds to ‘atmosphere of fear’," 13 July 2018 In total, he was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison. Jessica Taylor Price, Teen Vogue, "Gymnasts Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian Accuse Larry Nassar of Sexual Abuse," 16 Aug. 2018 Beate Zschaepe, 43, was sentenced to life in prison by a court in Munich, Reuters reported. Alexander Smith /, NBC News, "'Nazi bride' Beate Zschaepe guilty of far-right killings in Germany," 11 July 2018 For years, Mamic ran the country’s soccer program as his own personal fief; in June, he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for embezzlement and tax fraud. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Belgium’s Blueprint, Croatia’s Chaos, and the Murky Path to World Cup Glory," 10 July 2018 In June 2018, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mac Engel, star-telegram, "A parent's pain over his imprisoned football star son," 10 July 2018

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

14 Dec 2018

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 \

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 \

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

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having a pattern of small flowers

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