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[ri-prahy-zuh l] /rɪˈpraɪ zəl/
(in warfare) retaliation against an enemy, for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries.
an act or instance of retaliation.
the action or practice of using force, short of war, against another nation, to secure redress of a grievance.
the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English reprisail < Old French reprisaille. See reprise, -al2
Related forms
nonreprisal, noun
Can be confused
reprisal, reprise.
1. redress. See revenge. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for reprisals
  • Because people feared reprisals from the spirit lion, many stopped sharing information with the rangers trying to track the pride.
  • It wasn't a rainstorm that residents battened down for, but mob reprisals.
  • My experience however is that people are afraid of reprisals and are afraid to call security for help.
  • The students fear reprisals against their relatives as well as themselves.
  • There is always, in these moments, the lure of reprisals and terror.
  • Fearing reprisals, the merchants have rarely complained.
  • It is a sensitive subject and companies fear picketing and other similar reprisals.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes, fearing civil strife and reprisals.
  • Make sure there's no possibility of reprisals against those who make reports.
  • reprisals for political contributions can also come in forms unrelated to the donation itself.
British Dictionary definitions for reprisals


(often pl) retaliatory action against an enemy in wartime, such as the execution of prisoners of war, destruction of property, etc
the act or an instance of retaliation in any form
(formerly) the forcible seizure of the property or subjects of one nation by another
Word Origin
C15: from Old French reprisaille, from Old Italian ripresaglia, from riprendere to recapture, from Latin reprehendere to hold fast; see reprehend
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
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Word Origin and History for reprisals



early 15c., "seizing property or citizens of another nation in retaliation for loss inflicted on one's own," from Anglo-French reprisaille (14c.), from Old French reprisaille (Modern French représaille), from early Italian ripresaglia, from ripreso, past participle of riprendere "take back," from Latin reprendere, earlier reprehendere (see reprehend). General sense of "retaliation" is from 1710.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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reprisals in Culture

reprisal definition

An act by which a nation seeks, short of war, to redress a wrong committed against it by another nation. Boycotts and blockades are common forms of reprisal.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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