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[pyoo-ni-tiv] /ˈpyu nɪ tɪv/
serving for, concerned with, or inflicting punishment:
punitive laws; punitive action.
Also, punitory
[pyoo-ni-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈpyu nɪˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA)
Origin of punitive
1615-25; < Medieval Latin pūnītīvus of punishment, equivalent to Latin pūnīt(us) (past participle of pūnīre to punish) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
punitively, adverb
punitiveness, noun
nonpunitive, adjective
nonpunitory, adjective
self-punitive, adjective
semipunitive, adjective
semipunitory, adjective
unpunitive, adjective
Can be confused
penal, penological, punitive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for punitive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is apt to be doubly so when, as sometimes occurs, it is punitive in intent.

  • "Sir Oliver has gone to Arwenack upon a punitive business," said he.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
  • Of punitive police, political or moral, I have a wholesome horror.

    My Reminiscences Rabindranath Tagore
  • The campaign was “a punitive expedition for the suppression of brigandage.”

    Capitals Frederick W. Hamilton
  • The whole garrison is under orders for a punitive expedition.

British Dictionary definitions for punitive


relating to, involving, or with the intention of inflicting punishment: a punitive expedition
Derived Forms
punitively, adverb
punitiveness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Medieval Latin pūnītīvus concerning punishment, from Latinpūnīre to punish
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 punitive

1620s, "inflicting or involving punishment," from French punitif (16c.) or directly from Medieval Latin punitivus, from Latin punitus, past participle of punire "to punish, correct, chastise" (see punish).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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