verb (used with object), de·crim·i·nal·ized, de·crim·i·nal·iz·ing.
  1. to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against: to decriminalize marijuana.
Also especially British, de·crim·i·nal·ise.

Origin of decriminalize

An Americanism dating back to 1965–70; de- + criminal + -ize
Related formsde·crim·i·nal·i·za·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for decriminalization

Contemporary Examples of decriminalization

British Dictionary definitions for decriminalization



  1. (tr) to remove (an action) from the legal category of criminal offenceto decriminalize the possession of marijuana
Derived Formsdecriminalization or decriminalisation, noun
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

Word Origin and History for decriminalization

1945, from de- + criminal + -ization. Especially in reference to narcotics since c.1968.



1963, "to reform a criminal," back-formation from decriminalization. Meaning "to make legal something that formerly had been illegal" was in use by 1970 (there are isolated instances back to 1867). Related: Decriminalized; decriminalizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper