To retaliate means to get back at someone, usually through a counterattack. “Ned got hit with a cream pie, then he retaliated by throwing a bucket of Jell-O at his attackers.”

When you see the prefix re in a word, it usually means back. To return, remember, regurgitate (yuck) — all of these verbs relate to doing something back. At the beginning of retaliate it means back, and the taliate means to pay, so what you’re talking about here is payback. If you’re doing something terrible to someone just because you want to, that’s doesn’t mean to retaliate. But, if you feel they’ve done something bad to you, and you’re just getting them back? That’s when you retaliate.

Definitions of retaliate
  1. verb
    make a counterattack and return like for like, especially evil for evil
    synonyms: strike back
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    type of:
    hit, strike
    make a strategic, offensive, assault against an enemy, opponent, or a target
  2. verb
    take revenge for a perceived wrong
    synonyms: avenge, revenge
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    get back, get even
    take revenge or even out a score
    fix, get, pay back, pay off
    take vengeance on or get even
    type of:
    penalise, penalize, punish, sanction
    impose a penalty on; inflict punishment on
Word Family