Definition of punish in English:



  • 1 Inflict a penalty or sanction on (someone) as retribution for an offense, especially a transgression of a legal or moral code.

    ‘I have done wrong and I'm being punished for it’
    • ‘I was forever punished for not paying attention in class and eventually I finished school with minimum grades and poor recommendations.’
    • ‘Was I being punished for something that I didn't know about?’
    • ‘He wrote a story that was so good his teacher didn't believe he could be its author, and he was punished for lying.’
    • ‘Why should he be punished for being a person of his time?’
    • ‘Successful Jones is punished for his zeal by a tax.’
    • ‘A minute later the visitors were punished for their miss when Lennon took a pass on the turn and rifled the ball into the right-hand corner to give Monksland the lead.’
    • ‘In a society where justice means something, people are punished for what they have done, not for what they might do - or even fantasise about doing - in the future.’
    • ‘Speculation is growing over why the councillor gave up his planning portfolio, with fellow councillors claiming he was punished for his part in the failed motion.’
    • ‘Noir was the perfect response to the censors - the Code demanded that people be punished for their sins, and in film noir everyone pays.’
    • ‘Women are often punished for their presumptions.’
    • ‘Should parents be punished for allowing their children to be out of school?’
    • ‘On another occasion, he was punished for singing.’
    • ‘This contravenes the movies' typical treatment of cads, who are usually punished for their moral transgressions or transformed into dullards by the power of love.’
    • ‘The women are punished for refusing arranged marriages, or if their family fails to produce a promised dowry, or who in some way bring dishonour on their family.’
    • ‘Why should he be punished for declaring war on that country?’
    • ‘I would be very surprised if I am punished for it.’
    • ‘Regretfully my stock came entirely from behind the bar of my parents pub, something I'm sure I was punished for long ago and hopefully forgiven.’
    • ‘I spent a good portion of the movie wondering whether this would be a flick where the ambitious woman was punished for her desires.’
    • ‘It seems that what he was really punished for was appearing to care enough about an issue to look like a zealot.’
    penalize, discipline, mete out punishment to, bring someone to book, teach someone a lesson, make an example of
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    1. 1.1Inflict a penalty or sanction on someone for (such an offense)
      ‘fraudulent acts would be punished by up to two years in prison’
      • ‘The international tribunal the former president lacks the legitimacy needed to punish war crimes.’
      • ‘These petitions helped us understand that neither Wheeler's family nor his community regarded the death penalty as the only way to punish his crime.’
      • ‘The inclusion of international law provides the State with a wider scope for punishing crimes than mere reliance on national criminal law.’
      • ‘No international body is entrusted with the task of prosecuting and punishing those criminal offences.’
      • ‘Then when Jed were penalised for a stamping offence, Stenhouse punished the misdemeanour with well-struck kick to put the Greens eight points ahead.’
      • ‘The official failure to condemn or punish rape gives it an overt political sanction, which allows rape and other forms of torture and ill-treatment to become tools of military strategy.’
      • ‘Most rules were justified on the basis of injunctions by the spirits of the land, who were believed to punish any infraction.’
      • ‘He is talking, believe it or not, about an overdue, ponderous but worthy apparatus for punishing war crimes.’
      • ‘In updating the law on spousal rape, prosecutors in Arizona should punish that crime no differently than any other rape.’
      • ‘This same unelected President schemes to exempt Americans from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court, which punishes crimes against humanity.’
      • ‘But it is far from evident that to punish the crime of homicide with death is the most just punishment or is just at all.’
      • ‘Can an Ohio court punish the gruesome murder of two college students that occurred in Pennsylvania?’
      • ‘She said that she was not, but that it would have been something of a non-issue, because most felonies in those days were crimes punished by death.’
      • ‘My overall opinion is that capital punishment is an effective deterrent for crime, and as such, should be used to punish the extreme crimes, such as mentioned earlier.’
      • ‘The same law punishes theft by cutting off a hand.’
      • ‘Turn-of-the-century Chicago had a radical idea: Don't just punish crime, but reform criminals and the society that produced them.’
      • ‘The usual business of his court was to punish misdemeanours: public drunkenness, reckless driving, petty theft.’
      • ‘Their crimes are punished by a barbaric law, that of June 10, 1835, the sole penalty of which is execution.’
      • ‘Anything that punishes crime and prevents the use of guns has to be a good thing.’
      • ‘After all, the First Amendment has long recognized the legitimate government interest in preventing and punishing fraud.’
    2. 1.2Treat (someone) in an unfairly harsh way.
      ‘a rise in prescription charges would punish the poor’
      • ‘Workers said they oppose the rule because it unfairly punishes companies, many of which are forced to hire more staffers than they would otherwise need to compensate.’
      • ‘The measures directed against teenagers in particular ‘is unduly harsh and punishes someone for merely being present.’’
      • ‘The Lib Dem's national transport spokesman, John Thurso, claimed that charges were punishing motorists without reducing congestion.’
      • ‘It also started inflation, the most punishing thing that the poor can suffer.’
      • ‘It is unfair and impractical to punish motorists without offering them a genuine alternative.’
      • ‘What are you benefiting from punishing the poor people?’
      • ‘He said it was unfair that women were punished in situations such as Lawal's while the men get off.’
      • ‘Why punish consumers with water charges that can't be justified?’
      • ‘Dr Fundanga said all that was needed was a comprehensive framework for enforcement rather than on an ad hoc basis because this would end up punishing some members unfairly.’
      • ‘Patti Fritz argues that such a fee unfairly punishes elderly residents who put away savings for their retirement years.’
      • ‘However, critics of the tax, including many in the restaurant industry, have dubbed it the ‘fat tax’ and say it unfairly punishes the poor.’
      • ‘It has never managed to explain that discrepancy in its philosophy - punish poor people and they will do better, and reward rich people and they will do better.’
      • ‘This unfairly punishes students of lower income twice, because it is students of lower income who depend on financial aid more.’
      • ‘Today they pushed through the special-interest bankruptcy bill, punishing the very poorest members of society.’
      • ‘Don't you think it unfair to punish a Medicaid patient who maybe has had prostate cancer and radiation or surgery and Viagra might help him sexually?’
      • ‘By going to this extreme you are unfairly punishing the individual in the pursuit of spiteful gossip.’
      • ‘It is anticipated the most punishing charges would be restricted to the M25 and major routes into London during rush hours.’
      • ‘This unfairly punishes students from lower income backgrounds twice, because they depend more on financial aid.’
      • ‘He wants to see Hydro drop its flat residential tax rate of $33 per month, which he says unfairly punishes those living in small, single-room dwellings.’
      • ‘This is the type of thing I've been in favour of for a long time. I really believe the tax code should be modified to reward healthy and environmentally sound choices and to punish poor ones.’
      treat harshly, treat unfairly, be unfair to, unfairly disadvantage, put at an unfair disadvantage, put in an unfavourable position, handicap, do a disservice to, make someone suffer, hurt, wrong, ill-use, maltreat
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    3. 1.3Subject (someone or something) to severe and debilitating treatment.
      • ‘Recoil is heavy though not punishing and would probably be hardly noticed when shooting big game.’
      • ‘It is now, it seems, obligatory to have a scene where a hot young educator has sex - cue punishing sound effects - in the classroom with someone inappropriate.’
      • ‘Spokesman John Williams said: ‘Staff said this weekend was punishing.’’
      • ‘Nevertheless he followed, stones punishing against his tough foot pads, the silvery cloak of daemonthread threatening to tangle his legs, the breath rushing in his lungs.’
      • ‘Arshad Khan bowled with accuracy and determination and Danish Kaneria showed his thick skin, ignoring the relentless punishing he got, and coming back to bowl superbly at the end of the day.’
      • ‘But in my office, when I have nothing to do, the world seems do dismal, pointless and punishing that it can be hard to remember flowers and sunshine.’
      • ‘Modern combat may be less strenuous than it was in the age of the heavily-armored Greek hoplite, but it is still physically punishing.’
      • ‘Seems perfectly reasonable to me that the Doctor's control of the energy would be more punishing and exhausting - even damaging - than Rose's.’
      • ‘But Bachelard opposes his notion to the ‘pessimism’ of that of Freud, who, of course, saw moral conscience as cruel and punishing.’
      • ‘The awesome, all-encompassing responsibility of the producer, who oversees every stage of the film-making process, can be punishing.’
      • ‘It was hard to imagine how that merry prankster and mistress of worthy causes could be subject to such punishing mood swings.’
      • ‘His length had improved and he was much more severe in punishing any loose shots played by Darwish.’
      • ‘Of course no-one but a Hollywood star would undertake a regime as punishing as that which transformed Croft's pixellated curves into flesh.’
      • ‘Body shapes changed almost overnight as the effects of a famously punishing routine which included speedball sessions and was rounded off by hopping up the stairs at the Athletic Ground began to take their toll.’
      • ‘The film is a lot of fun to watch but obviously it must have been physically demanding and punishing.’
      • ‘Banks are, in effect, punishing the most competitive companies for their own sins in lending to uncompetitive ones.’
      • ‘And then there's the conflict avoider marriages, where it's just too punishing for them to disagree on anything so they just tiptoe around the subjects.’
      • ‘He may be right, but his sour remarks are outside the range of permissible discourse on this subject, which is either pious or punishing.’
      • ‘The time difference was punishing; games televised at 2.30 am, 5.30 am and 7.30 am.’
      • ‘His counter techniques and blocks were often harder than Soken's, however, and often punishing.’
      onerous, taxing, difficult, hard, heavy, laborious, burdensome, strenuous, vigorous, back-breaking, stiff, uphill, relentless, herculean
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Middle English: from Old French puniss-, lengthened stem of punir punish from Latin punire, from poena penalty.