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Borrowed from Latin prōsecūtus, perfect participle of prōsequor. Doublet of pursue, from Old French. Compare also persecute.





prosecute (third-person singular simple present prosecutes, present participle prosecuting, simple past and past participle prosecuted)

  1. (transitive, law) To start criminal proceedings against.
    to prosecute a man for trespass, or for a riot
  2. (transitive, law) To charge, try.
    • 1962 [1959], William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch, New York: Grove Press, page 8:
      The Vigilante is prosecuted in Federal Court under a lynch bill and winds up in a Federal Nut House specially designed for the containment of ghosts []
  3. To seek to obtain by legal process.
    to prosecute a right or a claim in a court of law
  4. (transitive) To pursue something to the end.
    to prosecute a scheme, hope, or claim
    • c. 1595–1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, “A Midsommer Nights Dreame”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene i]:
      I am beloved of beauteous Hermia; / Why should not I, then, prosecute my right?

Derived terms



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  1. vocative masculine singular of prōsecūtus