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Syllabification: pun·ish
Pronunciation: /ˈpəniSH

Definition of punish in English:


[with object]
1Inflict a penalty or sanction on (someone) as retribution for an offense, especially a transgression of a legal or moral code: I have done wrong and I’m being punished for it
More example sentences
  • This contravenes the movies' typical treatment of cads, who are usually punished for their moral transgressions or transformed into dullards by the power of love.
  • Noir was the perfect response to the censors - the Code demanded that people be punished for their sins, and in film noir everyone pays.
  • A minute later the visitors were punished for their miss when Lennon took a pass on the turn and rifled the ball into the right-hand corner to give Monksland the lead.
informal wallop, come down on (like a ton of bricks)
1.1Inflict a penalty or sanction on someone for (such an offense): fraudulent acts would be punished by up to two years in prison
More example sentences
  • The official failure to condemn or punish rape gives it an overt political sanction, which allows rape and other forms of torture and ill-treatment to become tools of military strategy.
  • Then when Jed were penalised for a stamping offence, Stenhouse punished the misdemeanour with well-struck kick to put the Greens eight points ahead.
  • He is talking, believe it or not, about an overdue, ponderous but worthy apparatus for punishing war crimes.
1.2Treat (someone) in an unfairly harsh way: a rise in prescription charges would punish the poor
More example sentences
  • By going to this extreme you are unfairly punishing the individual in the pursuit of spiteful gossip.
  • Patti Fritz argues that such a fee unfairly punishes elderly residents who put away savings for their retirement years.
  • Dr Fundanga said all that was needed was a comprehensive framework for enforcement rather than on an ad hoc basis because this would end up punishing some members unfairly.
penalize, unfairly disadvantage, handicap, hurt, wrong, ill-use, maltreat
1.3Subject (someone or something) to severe and debilitating treatment.
Example sentences
  • It was hard to imagine how that merry prankster and mistress of worthy causes could be subject to such punishing mood swings.
  • His length had improved and he was much more severe in punishing any loose shots played by Darwish.
  • Seems perfectly reasonable to me that the Doctor's control of the energy would be more punishing and exhausting - even damaging - than Rose's.


Middle English: from Old French puniss-, lengthened stem of punir 'punish', from Latin punire, from poena 'penalty'.



Example sentences
  • Apparently, if you have been clicked at less than 15 kph over the limit and have not had a speed ticket or accident in the previous three years you can write to the speed camera punishers and plead for a caution instead of a fine.
  • Manning used to say that Australian public life broke into two groups: the enlargers, and the punishers and straighteners.
  • Cruel physical punishments degrade the punishers as well as the punished.

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