[ re-truh-byoo-shuhn ]
See synonyms for retribution on
  1. requital according to merits or deserts, especially for evil.

  2. something given or inflicted in such requital.

  1. Theology. the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life.

Origin of retribution

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English retribucioun, from Middle French, from Late Latin retribūtiōn- (stem of retribūtiō ) “punishment, reward as result of judgment,” equivalent to Latin retribūt(us) (past participle of retribuere “to restore, give back”; see re-, tribute) + -iōn--ion

synonym study For retribution

1, 2. See revenge.

word story For retribution

English retribution ultimately derives from Late Latin retribūtiō (inflectional stem retribūtiōn- ) “recompense, repayment.” Retribūtiō first appears in the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Christian Bible made chiefly by St. Jerome during the late 4th century), in St. Augustine of Hippo’s City of God (a.d. 413–426), and in the writings of other Latin church fathers.
Retribūtiō denotes repayment but connotes payback. Retribūtiō is a derivative of the Latin verb retribuere “to return (money) in due turn, hand down a reward or punishment,” a compound of the Latin prefix re- “back, again, back again” and the verb tribuere “to share, share out, apportion.”
From tribuere is derived the noun tribūtus “a levy, tax, allocation,” which the Romans interpreted as a derivation of tribūtum “a tax, levy, a war tax paid by Roman citizens according to their tribes” ( tribus ). Tribus, one of the three original, traditional ethnic divisions of the Roman state, is a derivative of trēs “three.”

Other words for retribution

Opposites for retribution

Words Nearby retribution Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use retribution in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for retribution


/ (ˌrɛtrɪˈbjuːʃən) /

  1. the act of punishing or taking vengeance for wrongdoing, sin, or injury

  2. punishment or vengeance

Origin of retribution

C14: via Old French from Church Latin retribūtiō, from Latin retribuere to repay, from re- + tribuere to pay; see tribute

Derived forms of retribution

  • retributive (rɪˈtrɪbjʊtɪv) or rare retributory, adjective
  • retributively, adverb

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