plural noun Law.
damages awarded to a plaintiff in excess of compensatory damages in order to punish the defendant for a reckless or willful act.
Compare compensatory damages.
Origin of punitive damages
First recorded in 1970–75
Also called exemplary damages.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for exemplary damages
law damages awarded to a plaintiff above the value of actual loss sustained so that they serve also as a punishment to the defendant and a deterrent to others
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