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sen·​tence ˈsen-tᵊn(t)s How to pronounce sentence (audio)
: 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
: a mathematical or logical statement (such as an equation or a proposition) in words or symbols
: 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
: the punishment so imposed
serve out a sentence
archaic : maxim, saw
obsolete : opinion
especially : a conclusion given on request or reached after deliberation


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sentenced; sentencing

transitive verb

: to impose a sentence on
: to cause to suffer something
sentenced these most primitive cultures to extinctionE. W. Count

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Asylum means Olga Ponomareva won’t be deported to a prison sentence in Russia. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Jan. 2023 Former President Donald Trump later commuted Blagojevich's sentence in 2020. Rachel Looker, USA TODAY, 14 Jan. 2023 Jarrod Powell, 51, is expected to be handed a 22-year prison sentence, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office announced Thursday. Chantal Da Silva, NBC News, 13 Jan. 2023 With a maximum 120-year sentence hanging over his head, the man who fans worldwide have come to love as Young Thug — but whom prosecutors describe as a cutthroat gang leader — is now facing the prospect of growing old in prison. Richard Fausset, New York Times, 13 Jan. 2023 Weisselberg was able to net a lighter sentence after agreeing to testify on the scheme. Prem Thakker, The New Republic, 13 Jan. 2023 But Morrison managed its complexity and ultimately netted a 160-month prison sentence for the defendant. Johnny Magdaleno, The Indianapolis Star, 13 Jan. 2023 Daidreon Sparks and Walter Rondo III, both 26, both pleaded guilty and flipped, testifying against co-defendant Jimmie Caldwell in exchange for a lighter sentence. Meredith Colias-pete, Chicago Tribune, 12 Jan. 2023 Teresa Giudice is sharing her honest thoughts about Jen Shah's prison sentence. Ingrid Vasquez, Peoplemag, 12 Jan. 2023
The jury ultimately voted to sentence Thomas to death. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 12 Oct. 2022 Komp said Missouri and Indiana are the only states that allow a judge, rather than a jury, to sentence someone to death. Jim Salter, Chicago Tribune, 3 Jan. 2023 Bianco said the San Bernardino County judge overseeing his case did not sentence McKay immediately and lowered his bail, allowing him to be released. Christopher Damien, USA TODAY, 30 Dec. 2022 Texas then used the footage to sentence my client, Gabriel Hall, to death. Sara Netzley,, 28 Dec. 2022 Texas then used the footage to sentence my client, Gabriel Hall, to death. Andrea Marks, Rolling Stone, 28 Dec. 2022 The cases were was sent back down to Burns by the appeals court with instructions to re-sentence both as minor participants. San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Dec. 2022 At his original trial and in appeals, five separate juries voted to sentence Langley to death, Kemmy said. Hillary Borrud, Anchorage Daily News, 14 Dec. 2022 Kline decided to sentence Wright to the California Youth Authority for eight years, which meant she would be released on her 23rd birthday. Jesse Barron, New York Times, 21 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History



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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5


1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near sentence

Cite this Entry

“Sentence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
sen·​tence ˈsent-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce sentence (audio)
: judgment sense 2
especially : one pronounced by a court in a criminal proceeding and specifying the punishment
: the punishment set by a court
: a grammatically self-contained group of words that expresses a statement, a question, a command, a wish, or an exclamation
: a mathematical or logical statement (as an equation) in words or symbols


2 of 2 verb
sentenced; sentencing
: to impose a judgment on
sentenced them to prison
: to cause to suffer something

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
sen·​tence ˈsent-ᵊns, -ᵊnz How to pronounce sentence (audio)
: a judgment formally pronouncing the punishment to be inflicted on one convicted of a crime
: 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


2 of 2 transitive verb
sentenced; sentencing
: 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

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