[ pur-si-kyoot ]
See synonyms for: persecutepersecutedpersecutor on

verb (used with object),per·se·cut·ed, per·se·cut·ing.
  1. to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, especially because of religious or political beliefs, ethnic or racial origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

  2. to annoy or trouble persistently.

Origin of persecute

First recorded in 1400–50; Late Middle English; back formation from persecutour “persecutor,” ultimately from Late Latin persecūtor originally “prosecutor,” equivalent to persecū-, variant stem of persequī “to prosecute, pursue closely” + -tor; see origin at per-, sequence, -tor

Other words for persecute

Other words from persecute

  • per·se·cut·ing·ly, adverb
  • per·se·cu·tive, adjective
  • per·se·cu·tive·ness, noun
  • per·se·cu·tor, noun
  • per·se·cu·to·ry [pur-si-kyoo-tuh-ree, -kyuh-tawr-ee], /ˈpɜr sɪˌkyu tə ri, -kyəˌtɔr i/, adjective
  • non·per·se·cut·ing, adjective
  • non·per·se·cu·tive, adjective
  • non·per·se·cu·to·ry, adjective
  • o·ver·per·se·cute, verb (used with object), o·ver·per·se·cut·ed, o·ver·per·se·cut·ing.
  • un·per·se·cut·ing, adjective
  • un·per·se·cu·tive, adjective

Words that may be confused with persecute Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use persecute in a sentence

  • He was a great persecutor of heretics, and united with great talents equally great vices.

  • But I saw rocks and trees around me; clouds; I was in a grotto and beside me was a man, that persecutor!

    Balsamo, The Magician | Alexander Dumas
  • And just then the cab suddenly stopped, and there was his persecutor rapping on the front glass.

    Tales and Fantasies | Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Bishop Thornton, suffragan of Dover, was an indefatigable persecutor of the true church.

  • John Peter, son-in-law of Alexander, a horrid blasphemer and persecutor, died wretchedly.

British Dictionary definitions for persecute


/ (ˈpɜːsɪˌkjuːt) /

  1. to oppress, harass, or maltreat, esp because of race, religion, etc

  2. to bother persistently

Origin of persecute

C15: from Old French persecuter, back formation from persecuteur, from Late Latin persecūtor pursuer, from persequī to take vengeance upon

Derived forms of persecute

  • persecutive, adjective
  • persecutor, 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