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

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

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

Chelsea have already served half of the sentence imposed by FIFA over breaches of transfer rules relating to international minors and were unable to register new players over the summer., "Chelsea Eye January Move for Nice Defender Youcef Atal if Transfer Ban Is Reduced," 11 Sep. 2019 Antoni Porowski is standing in his beautiful Manhattan apartment kitchen shredding cheese, and more cheese, and even more cheese, and for many people, at least one part of this sentence is a fantasy. Maura Judkis, Houston Chronicle, "Antoni Porowski is more than ‘Queer Eye’s’ avocado hunk. With his new cookbook, he’s ready to prove it.," 10 Sep. 2019 Oleg Sentsov, a forty-three-year-old Crimean journalist and film director, returned to Ukraine after serving five years of a twenty-year sentence. Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, "The Release of Oleg Sentsov and the Plight of Those Left Behind," 10 Sep. 2019 Greenawalt died by lethal injection in 1997.The Tison brothers are still serving life sentences. John D'anna, azcentral, "The Barksdales weren't the first. Here's three of Arizona's most notorious prison escapes," 4 Sep. 2019 Prior to being granted clemency in 2018, Johnson had been serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Alice Marie Johnson Makes Her Modeling Debut for Kim Kardashian West's SKIMS Shapewear Line," 30 Aug. 2019 Though Elliott hasn't released a studio album 14 years (the saddest first half of a sentence ever), she's been having a moment this summer. Nicola Dall'asen, Allure, "Everyone Loves Missy Elliott's Hair on the 'Iconology' Album Cover," 23 Aug. 2019 The petition takes issue with two things: the way the ballot question is worded, and the inclusion of a sentence slated to appear in the voter guide’s summary of the ballot measure. Catherine Ho,, "Juul-funded group takes legal action against SF over ballot measure," 23 Aug. 2019 Daequayvios Marquis Hill has been identified as the suspect in the road-rage killing of 19-year-old Michael Jackson Jr. Hill began serving a 10-year sentence for engaging in organized criminal activity in December 2015, a year after the slaying. Loyd Brumfield, Dallas News, "Man already behind bars faces murder charge in 2014 Arlington road-rage shooting," 23 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Last year, a judge in New York sentenced Rahimi to multiple life terms after a jury convicted him of setting off a pressure-cooker device, injuring 30 people. Washington Post, "National Digest: DEA employee pleads guilty to being part of cocaine-smuggling network," 18 Sep. 2019 Hayes and Komisarjevsky were convicted at separate trials and originally sentenced to death, Their sentences were changed to life without parole when the state did away with the death penalty. Dave Altimari,, "Supreme Court sets October date for Cheshire murderer’s request for new trial in Petit case," 17 Sep. 2019 District Judge Hazel Jones sentenced Guardado to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement, KHOU reported. Fox News, "Houston man gets 20 years for running over ex-girlfriend multiple times, prosecutors say," 17 Sep. 2019 The birthday comes just days after Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days behind bars for her role in the college admissions scandal, in which Bella’s parents have also been charged. Claudia Harmata,, "Lori Loughlin's Daughter Bella Thanks Fans on Her 21st Birthday Amid College Admissions Scandal," 17 Sep. 2019 Mason’s entire comments came just before visiting Judge John G. Haas sentenced him to life in prison with his first chance at parole in 35 years, when Mason will be in his late 80s. Cory Shaffer,, "Former Judge Lance Mason spoke the classic language of domestic abusers in his plea for leniency in his wife’s brutal slaying," 16 Sep. 2019 She was given a 20-year sentenced with five years to serve but was given credit for time served and released from the Etowah County Detention Center on July 23, jail and court records show. Carol Robinson |, al, "Charge dismissed against father in infant son’s 2013 blunt force trauma death," 16 Sep. 2019 State District Judge Hazel Jones sentenced Guardado to 20 years. Hannah Dellinger, Houston Chronicle, "Man who ran over ex-girlfriend four times sentenced to 20 years," 16 Sep. 2019 Court records show Christopher, of Nottingham, was found guilty of first-degree assault and possession of a firearm as a felon and sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but five years suspended, in 2017. Kevin Rector,, "Maryland State Police investigating death of Baltimore County inmate at state prison," 14 Sep. 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 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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Statistics for sentence

Last Updated

5 Oct 2019

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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 wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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