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[pur-si-kyoot] /ˈpɜr sɪˌkyut/
verb (used with object), persecuted, persecuting.
to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religious or political beliefs, ethnic or racial origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
to annoy or trouble persistently.
Origin of persecute
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English; back formation from persecutour persecutor ≪ Late Latin persecūtor orig. prosecutor, equivalent to persecū-, variant stem of persequī to prosecute, pursue closely (see per-, sequence) + -tor -tor
Related forms
persecutingly, adverb
persecutive, adjective
persecutiveness, noun
persecutor, noun
[pur-si-kyoo-tuh-ree, -kyuh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈpɜr sɪˌkyu tə ri, -kyəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA),
nonpersecuting, adjective
nonpersecutive, adjective
nonpersecutory, adjective
overpersecute, verb (used with object), overpersecuted, overpersecuting.
unpersecuted, adjective
unpersecuting, adjective
unpersecutive, adjective
Can be confused
persecute, prosecute.
1. afflict, torture, torment. 2. worry, badger, vex, bother, pester. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for persecutors
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You can no more change your nature, than your persecutors can theirs.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • I have always spoken gently to you and have always sheltered you from your persecutors.

    Debts of Honor Maurus Jkai
  • Anyhow, you and I, Jean, have been too much persecuted to turn into persecutors.

    We Two Edna Lyall
  • Cornwood leaped from his chair, and began to kick at his two persecutors.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • The persecutors and their victims have long been dead, and judged.

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • At last their persecutors ended by driving the young man away.

    Cornwall's Wonderland

    Mabel Quiller-Couch
  • But the affair, as is usually the case, had an effect the reverse of that intended by persecutors.

  • Pointing to the enemy, he said, "Gentlemen, behold your persecutors!"

British Dictionary definitions for persecutors


verb (transitive)
to oppress, harass, or maltreat, esp because of race, religion, etc
to bother persistently
Derived Forms
persecutive, adjective
persecutor, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Old French persecuter, back formation from persecuteur, from Late Latin persecūtor pursuer, from persequī to take vengeance upon
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for persecutors



mid-15c., "to oppress for the holding of a belief or opinion," from Middle French persécuter "pursue, torment, open legal action" (14c.), from Latin persecutus, past participle of persequi "to pursue" (see persecution). Related: Persecuted; persecuting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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