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[puhn-i-shing] /ˈpʌn ɪ ʃɪŋ/
causing or characterized by harsh or injurious treatment; severe; brutal:
The storm was accompanied by punishing winds.
Origin of punishing
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English punyesand; see punish, -ing2
Related forms
nonpunishing, adjective
self-punishing, adjective
unpunishing, adjective
unpunishingly, adverb


[puhn-ish] /ˈpʌn ɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault:
to punish a criminal.
to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.):
to punish theft.
to handle severely or roughly, as in a fight.
to put to painful exertion, as a horse in racing.
Informal. to make a heavy inroad on; deplete:
to punish a quart of whiskey.
verb (used without object)
to inflict punishment.
1300-50; Middle English punischen < Middle French puniss-, long stem of punir < Latin pūnīre; akin to poena penalty, pain
Related forms
punisher, noun
overpunish, verb
prepunish, verb (used with object)
quasi-punished, adjective
repunish, verb
self-punished, adjective
self-punisher, noun
unpunished, adjective
well-punished, adjective
1. chastise, castigate. 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. 1, 2. penalize.
1, 2. reward. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for punishing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I refused—I gave the devil the victory, and God was angry, and now he is punishing me.

    Girls New and Old L. T. Meade
  • Nothing ever took hold of that girl,—not catechising, nor advising, nor punishing.

    The Guardian Angel Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  • Then is not God merciful to the world in punishing them, even in destroying them out of the world, where they only do harm?

  • You would have been justified in punishing the fellow as he deserved.

    A Black Adonis Linn Boyd Porter
  • She felt that it was his way of punishing her for not having been a more conformable wife.

    A Manifest Destiny Julia Magruder
British Dictionary definitions for punishing


to force (someone) to undergo a penalty or sanction, such as imprisonment, fines, death, etc, for some crime or misdemeanour
(transitive) to inflict punishment for (some crime, etc)
(transitive) to use or treat harshly or roughly, esp as by overexertion: to punish a horse
(transitive) (informal) to consume (some commodity) in large quantities: to punish the bottle
Derived Forms
punisher, noun
punishing, adjective
punishingly, adverb
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for punishing

"hard-hitting," 1811, present participle adjective from punish (v.). Related: Punishingly.



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
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