Definition of penalty in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpɛn(ə)lti/

noun (plural penalties)

1A punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract: the charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment
More example sentences
  • Even if he does, the maximum penalty for breaking the rules is a fine of $2,000 per violation.
  • Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs carries maximum penalties of ten years in prison, an unlimited fine and a minimum two-year driving ban.
  • The charges carry a maximum penalty of five life sentences.
punishment, sanction, punitive action, retribution, penance;
fine, forfeit, sentence
rare mulct
2(In sports and games) a handicap imposed on a player or team for infringement of rules: she only incurred 6.40 penalties for time on cross-country
More example sentences
  • The officials, from the same habitus as the runners, control the sport and impose penalties when they detect infringements of the rules.
  • Players are reminded that under the Rules of Golf, a player incurs the applicable penalty for any breach of the rules by his caddy.
  • The teams exchanged penalties early in the game as both vied for supremacy.
2.1A kick or shot awarded to a team because of an infringement of the rules by an opponent: a penalty corner
More example sentences
  • A breach of the rule will result in the opponents being awarded a penalty corner.
  • The visitors were awarded a penalty, which they kicked into the corner.
  • Three of their tries came from line-outs following penalties kicked into the corner and two more following forward drives.
2.2 Bridge Points won by the defenders when a declarer fails to make the contract.
Example sentences
  • If they win one trick each, or only one or zero tricks in total, both defenders pay the penalty.
  • Playing is a commitment to win at least one trick, and there is a penalty for failing to do so.
  • Next, if declarer has taken fewer than 6 tricks he pays a penalty of 20 units to the pot.
3A disadvantage suffered as the result of an action or situation: the cold never leaves my bones these days—one of the penalties of age
More example sentences
  • Kimi's third place reflects his poor starting position resulting from a penalty he suffered following an engine change on Saturday.
  • But he admits they are now paying the penalty for running with a small squad.
  • This ultimately destroys the very reason for Jesus' redemptive work on the Cross - paying the penalty of death for our sin.
disadvantage, difficulty, drawback, handicap, snag, downside, minus, detriment, unpleasant aspect;
trial, torment, bane, tribulation, affliction, suffering, burden, trouble, worry;
deprivation, cost, undesirable consequence;
British  disbenefit


under (or on) penalty of

Under the threat of: he ordered enterprises to fulfil contracts under penalty of strict fines
More example sentences
  • Should employees then be required, under penalty of not getting any redundancy, to change from one culture of organisation to another, albeit on paper it is simply a name change?
  • You mean the ones declared illegal by the republic under penalty of long painful death?
  • It says, ‘I hereby declare under penalty of election falsification, that the statements above are true as I verily believe.’


Early 16th century: probably via Anglo-Norman French, from medieval Latin poenalitas, based on poena 'pain'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: pen|alty

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