verb (used with object)
  1. to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal.
  2. to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.): to punish theft.
  3. to handle severely or roughly, as in a fight.
  4. to put to painful exertion, as a horse in racing.
  5. Informal. to make a heavy inroad on; deplete: to punish a quart of whiskey.
verb (used without object)
  1. to inflict punishment.

Origin of punish

1300–50; Middle English punischen < Middle French puniss-, long stem of punir < Latin pūnīre; akin to poena penalty, pain
Related formspun·ish·er, nouno·ver·pun·ish, verbpre·pun·ish, verb (used with object)qua·si-pun·ished, adjectivere·pun·ish, verbself-pun·ished, adjectiveself-pun·ish·er, nounun·pun·ished, adjectivewell-pun·ished, adjective

Synonyms for punish

Synonym study

1. Punish, correct, discipline refer to making evident public or private disapproval of violations of law, wrongdoing, or refusal to obey rules or regulations by imposing penalties. To punish is chiefly to inflict penalty or pain as a retribution for misdeeds, with little or no expectation of correction or improvement: to punish a thief. To correct is to reprove or inflict punishment for faults, specifically with the idea of bringing about improvement: to correct a rebellious child. To discipline is to give a kind of punishment that will educate or will establish useful habits: to discipline a careless driver.

Antonyms for punish

1, 2. reward.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unpunished

Contemporary Examples of unpunished

  • Fairly or unfairly, US and NATO forces are blamed for "the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and power-brokers."

    The Daily Beast logo
    Strategy? What Strategy?

    Stephen Holmes

    September 29, 2009

Historical Examples of unpunished

  • What shall he profit, if his injustice be undetected and unpunished?

  • There remains the other question: Is a guilty man better off when he is punished or when he is unpunished?



  • But from now on, no error would remain undiscovered or unpunished.

    Final Weapon

    Everett B. Cole

  • But for the sake of the priests he dare not leave me unpunished.

  • It seems a tame ending that villainy should get off unpunished.

    The Lady of Lynn

    Walter Besant

British Dictionary definitions for unpunished


  1. not receiving or having received a penalty or sanction as punishment for any crime or offence


  1. to force (someone) to undergo a penalty or sanction, such as imprisonment, fines, death, etc, for some crime or misdemeanour
  2. (tr) to inflict punishment for (some crime, etc)
  3. (tr) to use or treat harshly or roughly, esp as by overexertionto punish a horse
  4. (tr) informal to consume (some commodity) in large quantitiesto punish the bottle
Derived Formspunisher, nounpunishing, adjectivepunishingly, adverb

Word Origin for punish

C14 punisse, from Old French punir, from Latin pūnīre to punish, from poena penalty
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

Word Origin and History for unpunished



c.1300, from Old French puniss-, extended present participle stem of punir "to punish," from Latin punire "punish, correct, chastise; take vengeance for; inflict a penalty on, cause pain for some offense," earlier poenire, from poena "penalty, punishment" (see penal). Colloquial meaning "to inflict heavy damage or loss" is first recorded 1801, originally in boxing. Related: Punished; punishing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper