Definition of reprisal in English:



  • 1An act of retaliation.

    ‘three youths died in the reprisals that followed’
    [mass noun] ‘the threat of reprisal’
    • ‘The Allies, who were at one stage two days’ march from Paris, had circulated details of their planned reprisals, so that the Revolutionaries knew who was to be tortured to death and who merely imprisoned for life.’
    • ‘People rightly aren't willing to risk destroying their own careers if they sense there isn't sufficient protection from reprisals by their superiors.’
    • ‘By its lack of information, the text distances the - individual homicides from the history of reprisals that area prominent feature-of sectarian murders.’
    • ‘The citadel was evacuated to avoid political reprisals in the 1780s, but civilians remained in the fortified town until its decline in the mid-nineteenth century.’
    • ‘But tell me, hasn't the pharmaceutical industry fearing reprisals changed that somewhat, in fact, started policing itself, and toned down some of this stuff?’
    • ‘No one was arrested in the 1983 incident, but professional reprisals did follow.’
    • ‘A gangland war erupts that sees assassination attempts, violent reprisals, and an ever-rising body count.’
    • ‘It turns out they are using the house to launch raids in the neighbourhood, prompting Mohammad's son Jamal to plot reprisals against the occupiers.’
    • ‘The reason that serious entertainment journalism only tends to exist in major outlets is that only major outlets can scare the system out of reprisals for their honesty.’
    • ‘She is panicked about possible reprisals at work because of her illness and absences, together with the fact that she is seeing a psychiatrist.’
    • ‘Like Grandma, the two guerrillas had taken revolutionary names to bolster their morale and, in the advent of capture, to shield their villages and families from reprisals.’
    • ‘However, the key feature of such trust relations is an absence of opportunism, in that individual firms will not fear reprisals after any reorganization of interfirm relations.’
    • ‘The other side of the coin is the individual's right to personal privacy and the right, of say human rights activists, to communicate online without fear of reprisals from repressive regimes needs to be protected.’
    • ‘Zimmerman continues: ‘Those people to whom trade, growth and profit count most make the point that economic reprisals are inevitable.’’
    • ‘Though the British as a whole supported the policy of reprisals, the toll of death and destruction in Berlin and other large cities caused misgivings and public questioning of the morality of ‘area’ bombing.’
    • ‘Instantly, as if fearing reprisals, she lowered her head in a respectable, subservient manner and said nothing more as she bustled toward the door.’
    • ‘Between the rants and reprisals the couple meet, and still unaware of their counterparts' real identities take a liking to one another.’
    • ‘Although that revolt failed, the brutal Ottoman reprisals, which killed 30,000 Bulgarians, drew Europe's attention to what had previously been considered an Ottoman backwater.’
    • ‘The twentieth century saw many examples of arts playing a powerful political role, sometimes eliciting harsh reprisals and censorship, even death.’
    • ‘Negotiations can consist of suggesting courses of action, threatening reprisals, offering to work together, showing or demanding to see cards, or anything at all.’
    retaliation, counterattack, counterstroke, comeback
    revenge, vengeance, retribution, requital, recrimination, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, tit for tat, getting even, redress, repayment, payback
    lex talionis
    a taste of one's own medicine
    ultion, a roland for an oliver
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1historical The forcible seizure of a foreign subject or their goods as an act of retaliation.


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French reprisaille, from medieval Latin reprisalia (neuter plural), based on Latin repraehens- seized from the verb reprehendere (see reprehend). The current sense dates from the early 18th century.