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[re-truh-byoo-shuh n] /ˌrɛ trəˈbyu ʃən/
requital according to merits or deserts, especially for evil.
something given or inflicted in such requital.
Theology. the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life.
Origin of retribution
1350-1400; Middle English retribucioun < Middle French < Late Latin retribūtiōn- (stem of retribūtiō) punishment, reward as result of judgment, equivalent to Latin retribūt(us) (past participle of retribuere to restore, give back; see re-, tribute) + -iōn- -ion
1, 2. retaliation, repayment, recompense. See revenge.
1, 2. pardon. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for retribution
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Justice began the work of retribution early, and he who troubled the rest of all others was unable to find quiet for himself.

    Historical Parallels, vol 1 (of 3) Arthur Thomas Malkin
  • When the storm came, she was frightened, and said, 'It is a retribution.'

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • The rest of the campaign was an easy progress, and terrible was the retribution which it brought with it.

    The Life of Francis Marion William Gilmore Simms
  • When the Negroes learn what there is to know, then the day of retribution will be at hand.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Sufferings endured by the living were believed to be retribution for sins committed in a former life.

    Indian Myth and Legend Donald Alexander Mackenzie
British Dictionary definitions for retribution


the act of punishing or taking vengeance for wrongdoing, sin, or injury
punishment or vengeance
Derived Forms
retributive (rɪˈtrɪbjʊtɪv), (rare) retributory, adjective
retributively, adverb
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Church Latin retribūtiō, from Latin retribuere to repay, from re- + tribuere to pay; see tribute
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 retribution

late 14c., "repayment," from Old French retribution and directly from Latin retributionem (nominative retributio) "recompense, repayment," noun of action from past participle stem of retribuere "hand back, repay," from re- "back" (see re-) + tribuere "to assign, allot" (see tribute). Originally "that which is given in return for past good or evil;" restricted modern use of "evil given for evil done" (1560s) is from day of retribution (1520s), in Christian theology the time of divine reward or punishment.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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