[ krim-uh-nl-ahyz ]

verb (used with object)

, crim·i·nal·ized, crim·i·nal·iz·ing.
  1. to make punishable as a crime:

    To reduce the graffiti on subway cars, he wants to criminalize the selling of spray paint to minors.

  2. to make a criminal of:

    Drug use has criminalized him.


/ ˈkrɪmɪnəˌlaɪz /


  1. to make (an action or activity) criminal
  2. to treat (a person) as a criminal

Discover More

Derived Forms

  • ˌcriminaliˈzation, noun
Discover More

Other Words From

  • crimi·nal·i·zation noun
  • recrim·i·nal·i·zation noun
  • re·crimi·nal·ize verb (used with object) recriminalized recriminalizing
Discover More

Word History and Origins

Origin of criminalize1

First recorded in 1955–60; criminal + -ize
Discover More

Example Sentences

An excessive response could give the impression that authorities are criminalizing political views, which could worsen radicalization among right-wing groups and individuals for whom suspicion of government is a core tenet.

Elected officials and advocates hope the latest measures including the new matrix and the city and state laws criminalizing the use of chokeholds will lead to more substantive discipline.

If the US can't prosecute Assange, it means there won't precedent criminalizing newsgathering.

From Fortune

We would be much better off seeking services in community-based behavioral health or family support programs than criminalizing this behavior.

Public health experts interviewed for this story raised questions about criminalizing this kind of behavior and said it could potentially be dangerous if it means people spend time in jail.

I think if people were to realize that, it would be much harder to criminalize and dismiss us.

No, Mr. Taranto, what America wants to do is criminalize rape.

Despite this, in March Indian parliamentarians rejected proposals to criminalize marital rape.

Now the attempt is somehow to criminalize bureaucratic error.

The proposed legislation arrives in tandem with another law that would effectively criminalize graffiti.





criminalitycriminal justice