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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/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: pun‧ish
  • 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.
    Synonym: castigate
    If a prince violates the law, then he must be punished like an ordinary person.
    • 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.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To treat harshly and unfairly.
    Synonym: mistreat
    • 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.
  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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