verb (used with object)

to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal.
to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.): to punish theft.
to handle severely or roughly, as in a fight.
to put to painful exertion, as a horse in racing.
Informal. to make a heavy inroad on; deplete: to punish a quart of whiskey.

verb (used without object)

to inflict punishment.

Origin of punish

1300–50; Middle English punischen < Middle French puniss-, long stem of punir < Latin pūnīre; akin to poena penalty, pain
Related formspun·ish·er, nouno·ver·pun·ish, verbpre·pun·ish, verb (used with object)qua·si-pun·ished, adjectivere·pun·ish, verbself-pun·ished, adjectiveself-pun·ish·er, nounun·pun·ished, adjectivewell-pun·ished, adjective

Synonyms for punish

Synonym study

1. Punish, correct, discipline refer to making evident public or private disapproval of violations of law, wrongdoing, or refusal to obey rules or regulations by imposing penalties. To punish is chiefly to inflict penalty or pain as a retribution for misdeeds, with little or no expectation of correction or improvement: to punish a thief. To correct is to reprove or inflict punishment for faults, specifically with the idea of bringing about improvement: to correct a rebellious child. To discipline is to give a kind of punishment that will educate or will establish useful habits: to discipline a careless driver.

Antonyms for punish

1, 2. reward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for punisher

Historical Examples of punisher

  • He was not only the rewarder of good but the punisher of evil.

    Greek Sculpture

    Estelle M. Hurll

  • My faith in Aunt Deel as a corrector and punisher was very great.

  • Besides which,—and this is true of all punishment—any sense of injustice destroys respect for the punisher.

  • He is manifestly the type of Justice, both punishing and rewarding; as punisher he has been transferred by Dante to the Inferno.

    Homer's Odyssey

    Denton J. Snider

  • The Punisher of our unknown sins committed somewhere else or forgotten?

    The Inferno

    August Strindberg

British Dictionary definitions for punisher



to force (someone) to undergo a penalty or sanction, such as imprisonment, fines, death, etc, for some crime or misdemeanour
(tr) to inflict punishment for (some crime, etc)
(tr) to use or treat harshly or roughly, esp as by overexertionto punish a horse
(tr) informal to consume (some commodity) in large quantitiesto punish the bottle
Derived Formspunisher, nounpunishing, adjectivepunishingly, adverb

Word Origin for punish

C14 punisse, from Old French punir, from Latin pūnīre to punish, from poena penalty
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 punisher

mid-14c., agent noun from punish (v.).



c.1300, from Old French puniss-, extended present participle stem of punir "to punish," from Latin punire "punish, correct, chastise; take vengeance for; inflict a penalty on, cause pain for some offense," earlier poenire, from poena "penalty, punishment" (see penal). Colloquial meaning "to inflict heavy damage or loss" is first recorded 1801, originally in boxing. Related: Punished; punishing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper