[ pyoo-ni-tiv ]
/ ˈpyu nɪ tɪv /


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

Nearby words

  1. punishable,
  2. punisher,
  3. punishing,
  4. punishment,
  5. punition,
  6. punitive damages,
  7. punitively,
  8. punitory,
  9. punjab,
  10. punjab states

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 forms
Can be confusedpenal penological punitive

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

Examples from the Web for punitive

British Dictionary definitions for punitive


less commonly punitory (ˈpjuːnɪtərɪ, -trɪ)

/ (ˈpjuːnɪtɪv) /


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