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the act or an instance of punishing oneself
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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


What is self-punishment?

Self-punishment is the act or an occasion of a person punishing themselves, as in The monk isolated himself for days as self-punishment for his sins.

Self-punishment is similar to the word self-harm, and the two can sometimes be used to describe the same situations. However, self-punishment is more general and may not involve actual harm or injury to a person. Additionally, using the word self-punishment suggests that a person believes they have done something wrong or committed some transgression that they deserve to be punished for.

Example: Darla felt so guilty for ruining her mother’s garden that she replanted everything as self-punishment.

Where does self-punishment come from?

The first records of the term self-punishment come from around 1586. It combines self-, in the sense of “to, with, toward, for, on, in oneself,” and the word punishment, the act of inflicting pain or a penalty on someone as a result of an error or offense. Self-punishment is a person inflicting punishment on themselves.

Self-punishment is a general term, and the punishment can be performed physically, such as a person submerging themselves in cold water, or mentally, such as a person chastising themselves repeatedly.

Why would someone actively choose to punish themselves? That’s a question psychologists have been trying to answer. Self-punishment is actually quite common and is thought to come from a person trying to alleviate guilt or remorse. Relatedly, Christian holy men in the Middle Ages were noted to perform self-punishment as a form of penance for sins.

Did you know ... ?

What are some synonyms for self-punishment?

What are some words that share a root or word element with self-punishment?

What are some words that often get used in discussing self-punishment?

How is self-punishment used in real life?

Self-punishment is used by people to refer to activities they perform because of guilt or remorse. Sometimes, the word is used jokingly.



Try using self-punishment!

Is self-punishment used correctly in the following sentence?

Even though his mother never found out, Sam grounded himself in his room as an act of self-punishment for breaking the china plate.

How to use self-punishment in a sentence