[ rep-uh-rey-shuhn ]
/ ˌrɛp əˈreɪ ʃən /


the making of amends for wrong or injury done: reparation for an injustice.
Usually reparations. compensation in money, material, labor, etc., payable by a defeated country to another country or to an individual for loss suffered during or as a result of war.
restoration to good condition.



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Origin of reparation

1350–1400; Middle English reparacion < Middle French < Late Latin reparātiōn- (stem of reparātiō), equivalent to Latin reparāt(us) (past participle of reparāre to repair1; see -ate1) + -iōn- -ion


non·rep·a·ra·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does reparations mean?

Reparations are forms of compensation provided to those who have suffered wrongdoing or to their descendants. The term is especially used to refer to payments made (or proposed to be made) in the aftermath of war, slavery, or other forms of wide-scale systemic injustice.

Reparations typically consist of monetary payments, but they can also consist of goods, materials, or reparatory actions intended to account for such damages or to address ongoing injustice.

War reparations are typically made by a defeated country to the country or countries considered the victors (often ultimately to individual citizens in those countries) for losses and damages that resulted from the war.

In the United States, reparations have been made to certain groups and proposed for others. Discussion of the topic often involves proposals to make reparations to people who have been the victims of brutal treatment and racist policies throughout U.S. history, including Native Americans and the Black Americans who are the descendants of the African people enslaved in the U.S.

Sometimes, the word reparations is thought to be inappropriate for the type of compensation sought by some groups, who may consider it a payment of an existing debt, rather than a form of restitution.

More generally, the singular form reparation is the act or process of making amends for wrongdoing. It can also refer to the act or process of repairing or the state of having been repaired.

Where does reparations come from?

The first records of the word reparation come from the second half of the 1300s. It ultimately derives from the Latin verb reparāre, meaning “to repair.” The first records of the word being used to refer to compensation for war damages come from around the end of World War I.

Reparations are intended to repair damages caused by war and injustice. Of course, lives cannot be restored, so the intent of reparations is to make some form of amends for the damage that has been done and continues to affect people. Reparations commonly take the form of monetary payments, but they can also consist of providing goods, industrial infrastructure, or other monetary arrangements, such as those involving stocks or the cancellation of debt.

After World War I, leaders from Britain, France, and the U.S. negotiated the Treaty of Versailles, which required Germany to pay extensive reparations for damages to civilian property. Reparations negotiated after World War II were paid out for decades, with some payments remaining outstanding more than 75 years after the end of the war. African organizations have called on nations in Western Europe and the Americas to pay reparations for the damages caused by their enslaving of African people.

In 1988, a U.S. law authorized reparations to Japanese Americans who were forced by the U.S. government to live in internment camps during World War II. The reparations consisted of a formal apology and a payment of $20,000 to each surviving person who had been detained.

The word reparations is frequently used in reference to proposals to address the legacy of slavery and the ongoing effects of racist institutions in the U.S., including Jim Crow laws, segregation, and other discriminatory policies that have affected and continue to affect African Americans. In 2019, a bill was introduced that would establish a commission to study the effects of such practices and propose reparations for them.

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What are some other forms related to reparations?

  • reparation (singular)
  • nonreparation (noun)

What are some words that share a root or word element with reparations


What are some words that often get used in discussing reparations?

How is reparations used in real life?

Reparations are most often discussed in the context of war, slavery, and other forms of injustice.

Try using reparations!

True or False? 

Reparations only ever consist of monetary payments.

Example sentences from the Web for reparations

British Dictionary definitions for reparations

/ (ˌrɛpəˈreɪʃən) /


the act or process of making amendsan injury admitting of no reparation
(usually plural) compensation exacted as an indemnity from a defeated nation by the victors: esp the compensation demanded of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I
the act or process of repairing or state of having been repaired

Derived forms of reparation

reparative (rɪˈpærətɪv) or reparatory, adjective

Word Origin for reparation

C14 reparacioun, ultimately from Latin reparāre to repair 1
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

Cultural definitions for reparations


Compensation demanded by a victorious nation from a defeated nation. Reparations can be in the form of goods or money.

notes for reparation

After World War I, heavy reparation debts were imposed on Germany by Britain, France, and the other victorious nations. Resentment over these reparations aided the rise of Adolf Hitler.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.