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

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 Before his sentence was handed down, Kodak accepted responsibility for his crimes. Mario Ariza,, "Kodak Black sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison," 13 Nov. 2019 In fashioning his sentence, public safety was an important consideration, Graham said. David Owens,, "Hartford man sentenced to 50 years in prison for gunpoint rape of two homeless sisters on Thanksgiving Day 2017," 12 Nov. 2019 Scalia got her mind back on track, paradoxically, by interrupting her and challenging the veracity of one of her opening sentences. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, "Is the Supreme Court’s Fate in Elena Kagan’s Hands?," 11 Nov. 2019 As part of her sentence, Wang was also ordered to pay $2,000 in penalty assessments and register as a predatory offender. Nick Ferraro, Twin Cities, "Former owner of Inver Grove Heights massage business sentenced for promoting prostitution," 8 Nov. 2019 Brown later got an additional two years tacked onto his sentence after being caught with heroin in prison. Dominic Fracassa,, "London Breed’s brother seeks shorter prison sentence," 8 Nov. 2019 His sentence was the longest yet imposed by the court. The Economist, "Politics this week," 7 Nov. 2019 For many of the crimes on the list, offenders can regain their right to vote after completing their sentence and paying all their fines and restitution. Mike Cason |, al, "Merrill corrects press release on felons’ voting rights," 6 Nov. 2019 Alas, Gentile stuck to his denials and served out his sentence. Jim Geraghty, National Review, "The Last Trusted Prosecutor in Washington," 4 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb He could be sentenced to 20 years in prison if convicted. Washington Post, "Judge bans border activist from mentioning Trump in trial," 13 Nov. 2019 He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 after pleading no contest to aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, "Prosecutor weighs seeking of death penalty in Cleveland triple shooting," 13 Nov. 2019 He had been sentenced to 41 months behind bars after pleading guilty to mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud. Dave Quinn,, "RHONJ: Teresa Giudice Says Daughter Audriana, 10, Was Bullied Over Joe Giudice's Jail Time," 13 Nov. 2019 He was sentenced to life in prison and is suspected – though never charged – in the disappearance of his second wife and stepdaughter. Carol Robinson |, al, "Gone without a trace? Misery, mystery linger in these Alabama missing child cases," 12 Nov. 2019 He was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to nine years in prison. Kevin Grasha,, "Documents: Child porn collector pretended to be 18, asked girls for nude photos," 12 Nov. 2019 In 1999 he was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for running a $2.25 million Ponzi scheme. Cary Spivak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Imprisoned 'Bring it on' felon Todd Dyer sues his father and other family members," 11 Nov. 2019 Convicted the next year, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison but released on parole in 2004, records show. Megan Crepeau,, "Prosecutors decline to drop murder charges, setting up possible retrial for man who’s already completed his sentence," 11 Nov. 2019 Then, he was sentenced to a year in jail and five years' probation in March 2004 after pleading guilty to insurance fraud. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Where Is Joey Buttafuoco Now? Here's Where He, Amy Fisher, and Mary Jo Are Today," 9 Nov. 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

16 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for sentence

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

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More Definitions for sentence


How to pronounce sentence (audio)

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
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).


concealed or difficult to comprehend

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