See more synonyms for penalty on
noun, plural pen·al·ties.
  1. a punishment imposed or incurred for a violation of law or rule.
  2. a loss, forfeiture, suffering, or the like, to which one subjects oneself by nonfulfillment of some obligation.
  3. something that is forfeited, as a sum of money.
  4. a disadvantage imposed upon one of the competitors or upon one side for infraction of the rules of a game, sport, etc.
  5. consequence or disadvantage attached to any action, condition, etc.

Origin of penalty

1505–15;Medieval Latin poenālitās. See penal, -ty2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for penalty

Contemporary Examples of penalty

Historical Examples of penalty

  • There is a penalty for keeping open, houses of entertainment.

  • Generally death was the least penalty that capture entailed.

  • Such was the penalty for landing two buckets of Liverpool salt at Liverpool!

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Saunders became vehement, and paid the penalty of a paroxysm of coughing.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • I suppose it isn't half so much a crime--as it is a--penalty--for the crimes that bring it on.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

British Dictionary definitions for penalty


noun plural -ties
  1. a legal or official punishment, such as a term of imprisonment
  2. some other form of punishment, such as a fine or forfeit for not fulfilling a contract
  3. loss, suffering, or other unfortunate result of one's own action, error, etc
  4. sport games a handicap awarded against a player or team for illegal play, such as a free shot at goal by the opposing team, loss of points, etc

Word Origin for penalty

C16: from Medieval Latin poenālitās penalty; see penal
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 penalty

mid-15c., from Middle French penalité and directly from Medieval Latin poenalitatem (nominative poenalitas), from Latin poenalis (see penal). The sporting sense is first recorded 1885. Ice hockey penalty box attested by 1931.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper