dis·​ci·​pline | \ ˈdi-sə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio) \

Definition of discipline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : control gained by enforcing obedience or order
b : orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
3 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
4 : a field of study
5 : a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity
6 obsolete : instruction


disciplined; disciplining

Definition of discipline (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character
2 : to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control
3a : to bring (a group) under control discipline troops
b : to impose order upon serious writers discipline and refine their writing styles

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from discipline


disciplinal \ ˈdi-​sə-​plə-​nᵊl How to pronounce discipline (audio) \ adjective


discipliner noun

Choose the Right Synonym for discipline


punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing. punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing. punished for stealing chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation. chastised his son for neglecting his studies castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure. an editorial castigating the entire city council chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued. chastened by a landslide election defeat discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control. parents must discipline their children correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender. the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer

teach, instruct, educate, train, discipline, school mean to cause to acquire knowledge or skill. teach applies to any manner of imparting information or skill so that others may learn. taught us a lot about our planet instruct suggests methodical or formal teaching. instructs raw recruits in military drill educate implies development of the mind. more things than formal schooling serve to educate a person train stresses instruction and drill with a specific end in view. trained foreign pilots to operate the new aircraft discipline implies training in habits of order and precision. a disciplined mind school implies training or disciplining especially in what is hard to master. schooled the horse in five gaits

The Root and Meanings of Discipline

Discipline comes from discipulus, the Latin word for pupil, which also provided the source of the word disciple (albeit by way of a Late Latin sense-shift to “a follower of Jesus Christ in his lifetime”). Given that several meanings of discipline deal with study, governing one’s behavior, and instruction, one might assume that the word’s first meaning in English had to do with education. In fact, the earliest known use of discipline appears to be punishment-related; it first was used in the 13th century to refer to chastisement of a religious nature, such as self-flagellation.

Examples of discipline in a Sentence

Noun Sir Robert Peel is credited with creating the first modern police force, the bobbies, in London, in 1829, but the transformation of law enforcement, and especially forensic science, into a professional discipline was a haphazard affair. — Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, 7 May 2007 Pragmatism became America's most important contribution to the life of the mind in the 20th century. Filtered through scores of later interpreters, it percolated across a broad segment of academic culture and influenced disciplines as diverse as literary criticism and legal theory. — Theo Anderson, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2007 So the next fall I went to Hampshire College and began studying under Herbert Bernstein. Without him, I would never have become a scientist. He shamed me into doing the hard work necessary to be able not just to talk about math and physics but to calculate. Without that discipline, my story would have been very different … — Lee Smolin, Curious Minds, (2004) 2005 He stood erect, his bearing patrician, his dress impeccable. His face was stern and his pale eyes unsmiling behind his trifocals, like a man who had been called from important duties in the principal's office to administer discipline to an unruly classroom. — Nick Taylor, Laser, 2000 The teacher has a hard time maintaining discipline in the classroom. The troops were praised for their dedication and discipline. Some parents feel that the school's principal has been too harsh in meting out discipline. Keeping a journal is a good discipline for a writer. Verb The Army disciplined seven men for the incident, penalties ranging from pay-cuts and loss of rank to dismissal from the Rangers and return to the rank-and-file Army. — Gary Smith, Sports Illustrated, 11 Sept. 2006 Volunteers have to undergo a program to discipline the mind and cleanse the soul. — Aparism Ghosh, Time, 4 July 2005 The teacher then took me to the principal's office. There, the principal attempted to discipline me with an old Catholic school technique called "paddling" … — Lalo Gomez, Undoing Time, 2001 She was disciplined for misbehaving in class. He seems unwilling or unable to discipline his children. I'm trying to discipline myself to eat less.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun No arrests have been made and school officials wouldn’t comment on any possible discipline. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, 6 Oct. 2021 Belichick’s strategy, attention to detail and emphasis on discipline was vital. Rob Maaddi, courant.com, 29 Sep. 2021 Gouveia e Melo set the tone of the rollout with his no-nonsense approach and emphasis on discipline. Barry Hatton, ajc, 23 Sep. 2021 The city’s police chief and public safety director can disregard recommendations on officer discipline from the Civilian Police Review Board. Cameron Fields, cleveland, 18 Aug. 2021 The New York City Police Department said members of its force who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 are required to wear masks on duty or face discipline. NBC News, 18 Aug. 2021 Now, the board can only make recommendations on discipline. Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2021 Judge, who in his two seasons has taken a hard stance on discipline, lit up his players with curse words and forced them to alternate between 100-yard sprints and pushups for the rest of practice. BostonGlobe.com, 7 Aug. 2021 Before becoming mayor, Lightfoot served as head of the Chicago Police Board, the panel that rules on police discipline, and chaired then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force. Jeremy Gorner, chicagotribune.com, 26 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most of them involve findings of racial disparities, and many involve the police using excessive force and failing to discipline officers for wrongdoing. ProPublica, 24 Sep. 2021 The suit also accused National City police leaders of failing to effectively discipline officers who violate the constitutional rights of others, creating a culture that excuses such behavior. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Sep. 2021 Two universities have threatened to discipline students who have already signed up to be guides for LiveCampusTours. Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2021 But they cannot be used to discipline employees, Barbiere said. Sue Kiesewetter, The Enquirer, 25 Sep. 2021 Women who had filed complaints with the board said the reluctance to discipline therapists puts customers in danger. Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic, 24 Sep. 2021 The strength coach, one of seven non-physicians on the 15-member panel, says the board suffers from undue influence from powerful physician lobbying groups and is failing to seriously discipline doctors who hurt their patients. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, 21 Sep. 2021 That is, in touting himself as the commander who bravely reined in an unhinged commander in chief, Milley would have (however inadvertently) admitted misconduct that could subject him to discipline. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, 15 Sep. 2021 There’s really no way to discipline social dancing, because every prohibition becomes a form through which new freedoms are elaborated. New York Times, 15 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discipline.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of discipline


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for discipline


Middle English, "chastisement, system of ordered conduct, instruction, branch of learning," borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin disciplīna "teaching, instruction, branch of study, orderly conduct based on moral training" (Medieval Latin, "chastisement, scourging"), from discipulus "pupil, learner" + -īna, suffix denoting a place or practice (from noun derivative of feminine of -īnus -ine entry 1) — more at disciple


Middle English disciplinen "to subject to chastisement, educate," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French discipliner, borrowed from Late Latin disciplīnāre "to teach" (Medieval Latin, "to punish, scourge"), derivative of Latin disciplīna "teaching, discipline entry 1"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About discipline

Time Traveler for discipline

Time Traveler

The first known use of discipline was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near discipline




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for discipline

Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Discipline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for discipline



English Language Learners Definition of discipline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior
: a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders
: behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules or orders



English Language Learners Definition of discipline (Entry 2 of 2)

: to punish (someone) as a way of making sure that rules or orders are obeyed
: to train (yourself) to do something by controlling your behavior


dis·​ci·​pline | \ ˈdi-sə-plən How to pronounce discipline (audio) \

Kids Definition of discipline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : strict training that corrects or strengthens "Boys need discipline," he said.
3 : habits and ways of acting that are gotten through practice At this point in the act the penguins always forgot their discipline— Richard {amp} Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper's Penguins
4 : control that is gained by insisting that rules be followed The teacher tried to maintain discipline.


disciplined; disciplining

Kids Definition of discipline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to punish as a way to bring about good behavior The principal disciplined the troublemakers.
2 : to train in self-control or obedience The diet disciplines overeaters.
3 : to bring under control discipline troops

More from Merriam-Webster on discipline

Nglish: Translation of discipline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of discipline for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about discipline


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!