serving for, concerned with, or inflicting punishment: punitive laws; punitive action.

Also pu·ni·to·ry [pyoo-ni-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈpyu nɪˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/.

Origin of punitive

1615–25; < Medieval Latin pūnītīvus of punishment, equivalent to Latin pūnīt(us) (past participle of pūnīre to punish) + -īvus -ive
Related formspu·ni·tive·ly, adverbpu·ni·tive·ness, nounnon·pu·ni·tive, adjectivenon·pu·ni·to·ry, adjectiveself-pu·ni·tive, adjectivesem·i·pu·ni·tive, adjectivesem·i·pu·ni·to·ry, adjectiveun·pu·ni·tive, adjective
Can be confusedpenal penological punitive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of punitive

Historical Examples of punitive

British Dictionary definitions for punitive


less commonly punitory (ˈpjuːnɪtərɪ, -trɪ)


relating to, involving, or with the intention of inflicting punishmenta punitive expedition
Derived Formspunitively, adverbpunitiveness, noun

Word Origin for punitive

C17: from Medieval Latin pūnītīvus concerning punishment, from Latin pūnīre to punish
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 punitive

1620s, "inflicting or involving punishment," from French punitif (16c.) or directly from Medieval Latin punitivus, from Latin punitus, past participle of punire "to punish, correct, chastise" (see punish).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper