Definition of punitive in US English:



  • 1Inflicting or intended as punishment.

    ‘he called for punitive measures against the Eastern bloc’
    • ‘You'll get hit by punitive redemption fees if you cash in too early, and you'll pass up hefty loyalty and completion bonuses.’
    • ‘The whole affair is a punitive measure which operates most unevenly.’
    • ‘Removing punitive American policies would rob him of the one thing he needs most - a scapegoat.’
    • ‘You wonder whether the prohibitionists have any rational point at all The reasons behind punitive drug laws fail to stand up to any serious scrutiny.’
    • ‘State law prohibits punitive verdicts from bankrupting companies.’
    • ‘The punitive duty may be adjusted by a final ruling of the U.S. International Trade Commission slated for late July.’
    • ‘That discipline involves punitive measures, which may be either real or mentally exercised.’
    • ‘No one wins in punitive relationships: parents and children alike feel frustrated, angry and unhappy.’
    • ‘The cost of scrambling the police helicopter far outweighs any punitive fine imposed on any one of these offenders, were they to have been genuine.’
    • ‘The resolution threatened punitive economic and diplomatic measures if Khartoum didn't move quickly.’
    • ‘Traffic rules must be strictly followed and punitive measures taken.’
    • ‘Similarly punitive measures like charging fines from the public for flouting rules can be introduced.’
    • ‘It threatened punitive economic and diplomatic measures if Khartoum didn't move quickly.’
    • ‘There were no real punitive enforcement measures that could be stuck to in the agreement and Colina and Jimmy knew this.’
    • ‘Bear in mind that part of this policy is posited on the idea of it being said, that the detention is not punitive, that it is not designed as a deterrent.’
    • ‘The most effective way to force a reduction of the violence on both sides is to take punitive economic measures.’
    • ‘The Supreme Court should investigate the case and take due punitive measure against the trainees in accordance with law.’
    • ‘The same type of punitive policy exists for those who are married or in a de-facto relationship, or who have a dependent child.’
    • ‘It is a punitive measure imposed post-facto under anti-terrorism legislation.’
    • ‘I empathize with their authors, but I also know that punitive measures rarely work.’
    penal, disciplinary, corrective, correctional, retributive
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a tax or other charge) extremely high.
      ‘a current punitive interest rate of 31.3%’
      • ‘That's the thing that most put ants on my dink with this whole new wave of essentially punitive taxes, particularly with smokes.’
      • ‘Rather than urge selective and punitive tax increases, Ms. Devine should be urging no taxes at all.’
      • ‘The civil service post was resigned and the family removed to the Isle of Man to avoid the punitive tax system of the time.’
      • ‘It charged the punitive rate of interest on the arrears as well as the repayments, causing the debt to balloon.’
      • ‘The players were affordable and keen to escape their homeland's more punitive tax rates for higher earnings.’
      • ‘If the money is not paid to the Inland Revenue by the end of the financial year next month, the club could also find itself facing additional punitive charges.’
      • ‘These policies are, in effect, a punitive tax on a superior, and badly needed, technology.’
      • ‘Firstly, there is the punitive tax and fees that any purchase in Belgium imposes on the buyer.’
      • ‘The chances are you would be grateful to any institution that agreed to take your business - even if it charged punitive interest rates.’
      • ‘Although religious worship as such was not outlawed, punitive taxes were imposed on the churches and many were forced to close.’
      • ‘Thousands of Hindu temples and shrines were torn down and a punitive tax on Hindu subjects was re-imposed.’
      • ‘If the new bill is passed then punitive charges will be made for such applications.’
      • ‘From April 2006 any savings above a £1.5m cap at retirement will be hit by a punitive tax charge.’
      • ‘Local demand could also suffer unless the government lifts punitive taxes on passenger cars.’
      • ‘Emslie considers it a punitive tax on companies in an increasingly competitive television era.’
      • ‘This tax will clobber bright mobile young people, who can easily fly off to find work elsewhere where taxes are less punitive.’
      • ‘If you go overdrawn without agreement on your bank account you get stung by penalty charges and punitive rates of interest.’
      • ‘But if the imposition of a punitive tax serves to reduce demand for starter homes, the strategy may backfire.’
      • ‘The ensuing national uproar led to punitive taxes on repatriated assets that took the fun out of that maneuver.’
      • ‘Modern smokers are clearly able to ignore punitive taxes and health warnings on packaging.’
      harsh, severe, stiff, austere, cruel, savage, stringent, burdensome, demanding, draconian, drastic, swingeing, crushing, crippling
      View synonyms


Early 17th century: from French punitif, -ive or medieval Latin punitivus, from Latin punit- ‘punished’, from the verb punire (see punish).