To punish is to discipline or penalize someone because they've done something wrong. If you stole the cookie from the cookie jar, someone may have to punish you. Not you? Then who?

A judge will often punish a guilty defendant with community service or parole — or sometimes even with time spent in prison, if the crime is serious enough. You probably punish your puppy for chewing your shoes simply with a firm "No!" Sometimes people are punished unfairly, like how higher gas prices punish the people who can already barely afford to drive to their jobs.

Definitions of punish

v impose a penalty on; inflict punishment on

“we had to punish the dog for soiling the floor again”
penalise, penalize, sanction
show 13 types...
hide 13 types...
avenge, retaliate, revenge
take revenge for a perceived wrong
smear the body of (someone) with tar and feathers; done in some societies as punishment
execute, put to death
kill as a means of socially sanctioned punishment
punish by putting in a pillory
inflict severe punishment on
punish with an arbitrary penalty
victimise, victimize
punish unjustly
punish severely; excoriate
correct, discipline, sort out
punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience
get back, get even
take revenge or even out a score
kill by nailing onto a cross
burn at the stake
hang, string up
kill by hanging

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.