from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To subject to a penalty for an offense, sin, or fault.
  • intransitive verb To inflict a penalty for (an offense).
  • intransitive verb To handle or use roughly; damage or hurt.
  • intransitive verb To exact or mete out punishment.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To inflict a penalty on; visit judicially with pain, loss, confinement, death, or other penalty; castigate; chastise.
  • To reward or visit with pain or suffering inflicted on the offender: applied to the crime or offense: as, to punish murder or theft.
  • To handle severely: as, to punish an opponent in a boxing-match or a pitcher in a baseball game; to punish (that is, to-stimulate by whip or spur) a horse in running a race.
  • To make a considerable inroad on; make away with a good quantity of.
  • Synonyms Chasten, etc. (see chastise), scourge, whip, lash, correct, discipline.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To impose a penalty upon; to afflict with pain, loss, or suffering for a crime or fault, either with or without a view to the offender's amendment; to cause to suffer in retribution; to chasten
  • transitive verb To inflict a penalty for (an offense) upon the offender; to repay, as a fault, crime, etc., with pain or loss.
  • transitive verb Low To injure, as by beating; to pommel.
  • transitive verb Colloq. or Slang To deal with roughly or harshly; -- chiefly used with regard to a contest.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb To cause to suffer for crime or misconduct, to administer disciplinary action.
  • verb To cause great harm to. (a punishing blow)
  • verb To dumb down severely or to the point of uselessness or near-uselessness.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb impose a penalty on; inflict punishment on


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English punissen, punishen, from Old French punir, puniss-, from Latin poenīre, pūnīre, from poena, punishment, from Greek poinē; see kwei- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English punischen, from Latin punire ("to inflict punishment upon"), from poena ("punishment, penalty"); see pain.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word punish.


  • _punish_ sin while at the same time He _pardons_ it, -- can punish it in the Substitute while He pardons it in the sinner, -- it is not until he is enabled to apprehend the doctrine of _vicarious_ atonement, that his doubts and fears respecting the possibility and reality of the Divine mercy are removed.

    Sermons to the Natural Man 1857

  • You will not punish -- I say _punish_ -- a gentle girl like her for loving her father too well. "

    The Lights and Shadows of Real Life 1847

  • The idea of using public shame to punish is still with us, by the way.

    The recommended daily allowance M-mv 2005

  • In the first line he first uses the word punish, which becomes a recurrent theme in the poem, just as it must have been in his rambling thoughts.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol II No 4 1976

  • Roberto's undoing is his resemblance to her father - she latches on to him as a surrogate who she can "punish" - and I suspect that this goes deeper than his physical appearance.

    DVD Times 2009

  • Our community needs helping hands, and what better way to "punish" - community service would be a win/win situation for all concerned.

    Denver Post: News: Breaking: Local 2009

  • My point is just that I understand why some might use the word punish, because they see a correlation between religion-inspired prudery and lifestyle condemnation and religion-inspired rejection of abortion rights.

    Punishment 2008

  • From Paine's Common Sense I still like best of him from what I found in 1 version: "an avidity to punish is to be avoided ..."

    THAT DAY, This 9/11, FOX and Bob Dylan 2009

  • I'm 1 who has read a version of Paine's Common Sense where on the last page he says "an avidity to punish is to be avoided ..."

    American Justice is At Risk. What Are You Doing About it? 2009

  • From Paine's Common Sense I still like best of him from what I found in 1 version: "an avidity to punish is to be avoided ..."

    THAT DAY, This 9/11, FOX and Bob Dylan 2009


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • '"For shame, Heathcliff!" said I. "It is for God to punish wicked people; we should learn to forgive."

    '"No," he replied. "God won't have the satisfaction that I shall."' -Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

    February 20, 2008

  • Like a pun.

    November 22, 2008