Share this entry
persecute Syllabification: per·se·cute
Pronunciation: /ˈpərsəˌkyo͞ot/

Definition of persecute in English:


[with object]
1Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race or political or religious beliefs: his followers were persecuted by the authorities
More example sentences
  • She claims she has been persecuted because of her religious beliefs.
  • We should also be targeting the source of the problem: repressive governments which persecute their own citizens.
  • We see a dictator using force to repress and persecute his opponents.
oppress, abuse, victimize, ill-treat, mistreat, maltreat, tyrannize, torment, torture;
1.1Harass or annoy (someone) persistently: Hilda was persecuted by some of the other girls
More example sentences
  • For three years after DNA evidence proved his innocence, the authorities persisted in persecuting him.
  • They are doing the opposite by picking on them and by persecuting people more than they have for years.
  • Last week we witnessed two fine examples of the extent to which anti-smoking zealots will go in order to hound and persecute smokers.


Pronunciation: /ˈpərsəˌkyo͞odər/
Example sentences
  • But he is badly scarred mentally by his tortuous treatment at the hands of his persecutors.
  • Some of these children manage to flee their persecutors, and this film documents their attempts to be rehabilitated after surviving their severe traumas.
  • Thus the protectors themselves turned into persecutors.
Pronunciation: /ˈpərsəkyəˌtôrē/
Example sentences
  • However, in my attempts to understand I am not hampered by the persecutory activities of the state, religion or the mob.
  • He asks whether the persecutory figures are still there.
  • The paranoid type have prominent persecutory or grandiose delusions or hallucinations with similar content.


Late Middle English: from Old French persecuter, from Latin persecut- 'followed with hostility', from the verb persequi, from per- 'through, utterly' + sequi 'follow, pursue'.

  • second from Middle English:

    This comes from Latin secundus ‘following, second’, from sequi ‘to follow’, which gives its base sense. The time word (Late Middle English) is from medieval Latin secunda (minuta) ‘second (minute)’, referring to the ‘second’ operation of dividing an hour by 60. The verb (early 19th century) as in seconded the motion is from French en second ‘in the second rank (of officers)’. The use was originally military involving the removal of an officer temporarily from his regiment to an extra-regimental appointment. Sect (Middle English), originally ‘a following’ is also from sequi, as is persecute (Late Middle English) ‘to follow with hostility’, and sequel.

Words that rhyme with persecute

execute • prosecute
Definition of persecute in:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Related Words