Definition of penalty in English:


nounPlural penalties

  • 1A punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract.

    ‘the charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment’
    • ‘Even if he does, the maximum penalty for breaking the rules is a fine of $2,000 per violation.’
    • ‘It's a summary conviction that carries a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.’
    • ‘Sampling would be conducted on prisoners who had been sentenced for an offence that carried a maximum penalty of more than 12 months.’
    • ‘Police will have powers to impose instant £80 penalties for breaking new laws restricting their use.’
    • ‘Foxhunting carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.’
    • ‘The charges carry a maximum penalty of five life sentences.’
    • ‘In Britain, counterfeiting and copyright theft carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and unlimited fines.’
    • ‘Riot is one of the most serious political offences in the criminal code, and carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment.’
    • ‘Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs carries maximum penalties of ten years in prison, an unlimited fine and a minimum two-year driving ban.’
    • ‘The bills also take the almost unprecedented step of imposing absolute liability in relation to offences carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.’
    • ‘What would be the penalty for breaking this rule?’
    • ‘But all 67 aboard have pleaded guilty to immigration and aviation violations carrying a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a fine.’
    • ‘Failure to do so carries the maximum penalty of a £20,000 fine or six months jail.’
    • ‘They all deny espionage, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a hefty fine.’
    • ‘The interstate shipment of stolen goods offence carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.’
    • ‘The maximum penalty for breaking such an order is five years in prison.’
    • ‘Each count of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.’
    • ‘Although the ID cards will not have to be carried by the holder, there are stiff penalties for people who break the rules.’
    • ‘Hoax calls can carry a maximum penalty of up to three months in prison.’
    • ‘The violation carries a maximum penalty of death.’
    punishment, sanction, punitive action, retribution, penance
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    1. 1.1 A disadvantage suffered as the result of an action or situation.
      ‘the cold never leaves my bones these days—one of the penalties of age’
      • ‘This is a situation where the penalty is most unfair.’
      • ‘This new situation may counsel a penalty of even higher than five years for the most serious of the anthrax hoaxes.’
      • ‘York continued to suffer a series of penalties, which is a seemingly weekly occurrence, suggesting that all the fault cannot be laid at the hands of a succession of misguided officials.’
      • ‘Zimbabwe could well do with a rare victory and are paying the penalty for arranging a tour at the height of their rainy season.’
      • ‘If a depositor misses just one payment they can suffer severe penalties especially in an environment where interest rates are falling.’
      • ‘Therefore we will suffer the same penalties as non-members.’
      • ‘They should be locked up like other law breakers and they should suffer a financial penalty.’
      • ‘Kimi's third place reflects his poor starting position resulting from a penalty he suffered following an engine change on Saturday.’
      • ‘I also accept that there are very limited cases where a person who has a minor conviction might suffer a penalty out of all proportion to the early, minor offending.’
      • ‘Furthermore, if two people of the same sex (who are not related) are found to be naked together they may suffer the penalty of a hundred lashes.’
      • ‘If all the evidence is against him, he will suffer the harshest penalty.’
      • ‘But he admits they are now paying the penalty for running with a small squad.’
      • ‘As a result, it now seems that she may suffer a penalty, since her insurance for the tour did not include cover for her being taken ill.’
      • ‘But even if you quit the deal in the last two years, you would suffer £4,500 in penalties on a £150,000 loan.’
      • ‘You have to give the requisite notice before making withdrawals or suffer interest penalties.’
      • ‘At present, people who are proven to be proactively racist in an Australian workplace stand to lose their jobs or suffer significant financial penalties.’
      • ‘This ultimately destroys the very reason for Jesus' redemptive work on the Cross - paying the penalty of death for our sin.’
      • ‘But this is different because individuals will suffer a penalty in the meantime.’
      • ‘Criminal's who commit the worst crimes are currently able to suffer death as the penalty.’
      • ‘As a result of such biases, faculty members suffer career penalties for using policies designed to help them balance work and family commitments.’
      disadvantage, difficulty, drawback, handicap, snag, downside, minus, detriment, unpleasant aspect
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  • 2(in sports and games) a handicap imposed on a player or team for infringement of rules.

    ‘she only incurred 6.40 penalties for time on cross-country’
    • ‘Last season, there were an average of 3.02 holding penalties per game.’
    • ‘We always practise penalties before a cup game.’
    • ‘The officials, from the same habitus as the runners, control the sport and impose penalties when they detect infringements of the rules.’
    • ‘He gets a penalty for delay of game, and he really is looking rattled right now.’
    • ‘The matter has been referred to the players to impose a penalty under their code of conduct.’
    • ‘The teams exchanged penalties early in the game as both vied for supremacy.’
    • ‘The sport's top official governing body said yesterday the decision to impose the penalties was taken ‘for the betterment of the players’.’
    • ‘They are so bad their offense has 18 false-start penalties in six games.’
    • ‘People talk about the penalty that settled the game.’
    • ‘Each competitor tries to manoeuvre the other into making an error or violating the rules and incurring a penalty.’
    • ‘Also, his pass-interference penalty late in the game was inexcusable.’
    • ‘Players are reminded that under the Rules of Golf, a player incurs the applicable penalty for any breach of the rules by his caddy.’
    • ‘Time outs are allowed, but any infringement incurs a five-point penalty.’
    • ‘An officiating website will be fully operational this year and will include an area containing penalties called in games.’
    • ‘He said videos had helped him predict which way England players would steer their penalties but believes other factors also aided him.’
    • ‘He went on to claim 100 per cent accuracy for the second game running with two penalties and three conversions.’
    • ‘The team committed a whopping 58 penalties in four preseason games and failed to reduce the problems from week to week.’
    • ‘The visitors hit the home side for six, with two of those strikes coming deep into injury time, including a penalty as the game entered its fifth minute of stoppage time.’
    • ‘Obviously, it's important for players to understand the penalty that is attached to the rule.’
    • ‘In a seven-game series, that works out to be a difference of two penalties a game.’
    1. 2.1 A kick or shot awarded to a team because of an infringement of the rules by an opponent.
      ‘a penalty corner’
      • ‘The breakthrough finally came when Aberdeen kicked a penalty into the corner and drove over the line on the 60-minute mark.’
      • ‘They mounted continuous pressure on the home line and were awarded several penalties which they declined to kick.’
      • ‘Three of their tries came from line-outs following penalties kicked into the corner and two more following forward drives.’
      • ‘This had followed a surprising decision to kick a penalty into the corner instead of the goal, which with the help of hindsight may well have cost the home side the game.’
      • ‘The referee awarded only a penalty for the foul play, and the full-back remained on the field.’
      • ‘After you score in hockey, you don't award the other team with a penalty shot.’
      • ‘Matching the number of penalties awarded was the frequency of kicks charged down by both sides.’
      • ‘That allows the play to flow and continue with the attacking team given a true advantage - if there is no gain then the whistle blows and the free kick or penalty awarded.’
      • ‘His speed often leads to holding or false-start penalties from opponents.’
      • ‘John and his teammates were finally awarded a penalty after neither team had scored in the 20-minute competition.’
      • ‘A breach of the rule will result in the opponents being awarded a penalty corner.’
      • ‘The visitors were awarded a penalty, which they kicked into the corner.’
      • ‘He was convinced his opponent had taken a penalty shot.’
      • ‘In the 75th minute England were awarded a penalty within easy kicking distance of the posts.’
      • ‘However, should the ball be hit intentionally over the back-line then a penalty corner is awarded against the defending side.’
      • ‘It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to win what is certain to be a tight contest, so tight that it will probably be won by the team making best use of their penalty corner awards.’
      • ‘Almost immediately, he rifled a penalty corner shot straight into the net.’
      • ‘The visitors, on the other hand, took poor options in the first half, kicking for touch rather than posts when awarded penalties.’
      • ‘The team has struggled all season with punt return penalties, and the kick coverage unit has been shaky.’
      • ‘The home side rounded off their scoring in the 62nd minute when they elected to kick a penalty into the corner.’
    2. 2.2Bridge Points won by the defenders when a declarer fails to make the contract.
      • ‘After the Declarer has counted his books and subtracted his penalties, that number is compared with his bid.’
      • ‘The same penalty is payable by the declarer if the wrong number of cards were discarded.’
      • ‘If they win one trick each, or only one or zero tricks in total, both defenders pay the penalty.’
      • ‘Playing is a commitment to win at least one trick, and there is a penalty for failing to do so.’
      • ‘Next, if declarer has taken fewer than 6 tricks he pays a penalty of 20 units to the pot.’


  • under (or on) penalty of

    • Under the threat of.

      ‘he ordered enterprises to fulfil contracts under penalty of strict fines’
      • ‘If you're outside of Britain, just be thankful that you're not forced under penalty of law to finance this deeply troubled organisation's efforts to dodge reality.’
      • ‘In the survey, college administrators were asked to state, under penalty of perjury, whether they enrolled high-school students in the classes legally.’
      • ‘What whistleblower would even dare contact a journalist if he or she knew that the journalist could be compelled under penalty of jail to reveal the whistleblower's name?’
      • ‘Married women weren't even allowed to watch under penalty of death.’
      • ‘There wasn't a soul in the room who would have considered such a move under penalty of death.’
      • ‘Voter registrants have to check a box and sign a form under penalty of perjury that they are a U.S. citizen, of voting age, and not an ex-felon.’
      • ‘Women were not allowed to take part in the ancient Games, and married women were not even allowed as spectators, under penalty of death.’
      • ‘Should employees then be required, under penalty of not getting any redundancy, to change from one culture of organisation to another, albeit on paper it is simply a name change?’
      • ‘It says, ‘I hereby declare under penalty of election falsification, that the statements above are true as I verily believe.’’
      • ‘You mean the ones declared illegal by the republic under penalty of long painful death?’


Early 16th century: probably via Anglo-Norman French, from medieval Latin poenalitas, based on poena ‘pain’.