[ rep-uh-rey-shuhnz ]
/ ˌrɛp əˈreɪ ʃənz /
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plural noun
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: The U.S. government eventually disbursed reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned during World War II.
monetary or other compensation payable by a country to an individual for a historical wrong: The article is about reparations to Black people for the enslavement of their ancestors.
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Which sentence is correct?
Sometimes rep·a·ra·tion .

Origin of reparations

First recorded in 1350–1400; plural of reparation (in the sense of “something done or given to make amends”)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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.

How to use reparations in a sentence