capital punishment


punishment by death for a crime; death penalty.

Origin of capital punishment

First recorded in 1575–85 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for capital punishment


Examples from the Web for capital punishment

Historical Examples of capital punishment

  • The capital-punishment man was the Marquis of Beccaria, and that of makes a great difference in Europe.

    Stories of Invention

    Edward E. Hale

British Dictionary definitions for capital punishment

capital punishment


the punishment of death for a crime; death penalty
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

capital punishment in Culture

capital punishment

The infliction of the death penalty as punishment for certain crimes. (See capital offense.)


In the United States, capital punishment has been an extremely controversial issue on legal, moral, and ethical grounds. In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was not, in principle, cruel and unusual punishment (and not, therefore, unconstitutional), but that its implementation through existing state laws was unconstitutional. In 1976, the Supreme Court again ruled that the death penalty was not unconstitutional, though a mandatory death penalty for any crime was. Thirty-nine states now practice the death penalty.

capital punishment

The death penalty for a crime.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.