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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English punischen, from Anglo-Norman, Old French puniss-, stem of some of the conjugated forms of punir, from Latin puniō (I inflict punishment upon), from poena (punishment, penalty); see pain. Displaced Old English wītnian and (mostly, in this sense) wrecan.


  • IPA(key): /ˈpʌnɪʃ/
  • Hyphenation: pun‧ish
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌnɪʃ


punish (third-person singular simple present punishes, present participle punishing, simple past and past participle punished)

  1. (transitive) To cause to suffer for crime or misconduct, to administer disciplinary action.
    • 1818, William Cobbett, The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, page 255:
      It was not from the want of proper laws that dangerous principles had been disseminated, and had assumed a threatening aspect, but because those laws had not been employed by the executive power to remedy the evil, and to punish the offenders.
    • 2007, Matthew Weait, Intimacy and Responsibility: The Criminalisation of HIV Transmission, Routledge, →ISBN, page 80:
      The law needs to punish this behaviour as a deterrent to others.
    • 2017, Joyce Carol Oates, Double Delight, Open Road Media, →ISBN:
      His mother had punished him when he'd deserved it. She'd loved him, he was “all she had,” but she'd punished him, too.
    Synonym: castigate
    If a prince violates the law, then he must be punished like an ordinary person.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To treat harshly and unfairly.
    • 1994, Valerie Polakow, Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America, University of Chicago Press, →ISBN, page 68:
      But each effort that Anna makes —and she has attempted many— meets with obstacles from a welfare bureaucracy that punishes single mothers for initiative and partial economic self-sufficiency.
    • 2008, Seth Benardete, The Bow and the Lyre: A Platonic Reading of the Odyssey, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, →ISBN, page 5:
      Homer, moreover, gives the impression that the Sun punished Odysseus's men; but we are later told that the Sun cannot punish individual men []
    • 2009, Gordon Wright, Learning to Ride, Hunt, and Show, Skyhorse Publishing Inc., →ISBN, page 44:
      The rider who comes back on his horse in mid-air over a fence is punishing his horse severely.
    Synonym: mistreat
  3. (transitive, colloquial) To handle or beat severely; to maul.
  4. (transitive, colloquial) To consume a large quantity of.
    • 1970, Doc Greene, The Memory Collector, page 49:
      A few moments later, we were all sitting around the veranda of the hunters' dining hall, punishing the gin, as usual.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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