[ pyoo-ni-tiv ]
/ ˈpyu nɪ tɪv /


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 forms

Can be confused

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

British Dictionary definitions for punitively


less commonly punitory (ˈpjuːnɪtərɪ, -trɪ)

/ (ˈpjuːnɪtɪv) /


relating to, involving, or with the intention of inflicting punishmenta punitive expedition

Derived Forms

punitively, 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