Definition of sanction in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsaNG(k)SH(ə)n/


1A threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule: a range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse
More example sentences
  • It is a way of recovering penalties by a sanction which is the most serious one known to our law.
  • A further argument is that if he renounces before the harm is caused, this may show that the threat of the criminal sanction has had a deterrent effect.
  • Both bars have also developed a set of sanctions for patrons who disobey the rules.
penalty, punishment, deterrent;
punitive action, discipline, restriction;
embargo, ban, prohibition, boycott
1.1 (sanctions) Measures taken by a nation to coerce another to conform to an international agreement or norms of conduct, typically in the form of restrictions on trade or on participation in official sporting events.
Example sentences
  • The question arises whether the problem can be addressed indirectly through trade sanctions or restrictions to punish countries that refuse to improve environmental standards.
  • Legislation permitted magistrates to enforce employment agreements with penal sanctions in the form of imprisonment, fines, and physical punishment.
  • Imposing trade sanctions, although officials admit that Iran-Canada trade may not be extensive enough to serve as much of a lever.
1.2 Philosophy A consideration operating to enforce obedience to any rule of conduct.
Example sentences
  • Hume makes no attempt to connect morals with religion, no doubt because he saw that morals cannot be grounded on any form of authority, however powerful, though religious belief may operate as a sanction through its effect on the passions.
  • That, though a large factor in the moral bewilderment of the West, is a marginal issue for Nietzsche, whose main interest is in the nature of morality's sanctions in general.
  • And it claims that the conditions under which moral sanctions should be applied are determined by rules justified by their consequences.
2Official permission or approval for an action: he appealed to the bishop for his sanction
More example sentences
  • It should be noted that neither Students for Life nor Muslim Students for Universal Justice, have, to my knowledge, demanded approval or official sanction for their principles.
  • Her mother had sought court sanction for the operation to stop her daughter's periods and prevent her from getting pregnant.
  • They have urged Laois County Council to seek the immediate sanction of the National Roads Authority for the re-commencement of road words at Park, Stradbally.
authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, approbation, endorsement, accreditation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur
informal go-ahead, OK, green light
2.1Official confirmation or ratification of a law.
Example sentences
  • But the Directive leaves open the powers to the prosecution and sanction to the interpretation of individual states.
  • In the case of the South Australian Tribunal, my understanding, your Honour, is that it does not have a power to impose any direct sanction.
  • If it does not, then it is for Parliament, if it thinks fit, to provide the necessary sanction by providing a public law remedy linked directly to the protection of public rights.
2.2 Law , historical A law or decree, especially an ecclesiastical decree.
Example sentences
  • That is to say, the common perception is that the validity of religious laws is ensured by divine sanction, while the utility of customary laws is assumed to have been proven through long experience.
  • It was an ecclesiastical sanction that had the effect of closing churches and suspending religious services.


[with object]
1Give official permission or approval for (an action): only two treatments have been sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration
More example sentences
  • Under his draft guidelines, schemes would be officially sanctioned.
  • Training will commence just as soon as the GAA Club has sanctioned permission, as the Ladies Club will need to use this pitch.
  • It must be noted that these drugs have been sanctioned and approved by the Food and Drugs Administration of the US.
authorize, permit, allow, warrant, accredit, license, endorse, approve, accept, back, support
informal OK
2Impose a sanction or penalty on.
Example sentences
  • As a result, more and more medical societies have begun to sanction members with penalties like suspension or revocation of their society membership.
  • And right now that means confronting and sanctioning an out of control Israel.
  • Moreover, the actions of individuals who repeat rather than question, watch out for, punish, and sanction transgressions, lend these norms their strength.
punish, discipline someone for


Sanction is confusing because it has two meanings that are almost opposite. In most domestic contexts, sanction means ‘approval, permission’: voters gave the measure their sanction. In foreign affairs, sanction means ‘penalty, deterrent’: international sanctions against the republic go into effect in January.



Example sentences
  • USF now has set forth charges of sanctionable and criminal behavior against the tenured professor of computer science, against which he now must have the opportunity to defend himself in an appropriate and impartial forum.
  • The view at Ciceroinian Review, on the other hand, is that her actions cannot be sanctionable without prohibiting any member of the bar from lobbying over judicial nominations.
  • Any transfer of lethal military equipment to state sponsors of terrorism is sanctionable under U.S. laws.


Late Middle English (as a noun denoting an ecclesiastical decree): from French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire 'ratify'. The verb dates from the late 18th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sanc·tion

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