Definition of punitive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈpyo͞onədiv/


1Inflicting or intended as punishment: he called for punitive measures against the Eastern bloc
More example sentences
  • That discipline involves punitive measures, which may be either real or mentally exercised.
  • The Supreme Court should investigate the case and take due punitive measure against the trainees in accordance with law.
  • The resolution threatened punitive economic and diplomatic measures if Khartoum didn't move quickly.
penal, disciplinary, corrective, correctional, retributive
1.1(Of a tax or other charge) extremely high: a current punitive interest rate of 31.3%
More example sentences
  • From April 2006 any savings above a £1.5m cap at retirement will be hit by a punitive tax charge.
  • The players were affordable and keen to escape their homeland's more punitive tax rates for higher earnings.
  • The chances are you would be grateful to any institution that agreed to take your business - even if it charged punitive interest rates.
harsh, severe, stiff, stringent, burdensome, demanding, crushing, crippling;
high, sky-high, inflated, exorbitant, extortionate, excessive, inordinate, unreasonable



Example sentences
  • ‘He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge,’ Miller told Whyte.
  • More tobacco industry litigation and settlements are expected to punitively punish the tobacco industry for long-term misrepresentation of the health risks associated with smoking.
  • The judge knew we had all these debts and yet he punitively and vindictively imposed these defence costs on us as well.


Example sentences
  • I have just put online here one of my academic papers that reports some survey findings about punitiveness.
  • The presence of a climate of punitiveness and regimentation is a longstanding concern in other studies of the trajectory of adolescents in various forms of mental health or substance abuse treatment.
  • For criminal offenders, if different sanctions are to have the punitive and deterrent effect that the public and officials desire, offenders must generally share the state's punitiveness in ranking of criminal sanctions.


Early 17th century: from French punitif, -ive or medieval Latin punitivus, from Latin punit- 'punished', from the verb punire (see punish).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pu·ni·tive

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.