Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


1. Punishment administered in return for a wrong committed.
2. Theology Punishment or reward distributed in a future life based on performance in this one.

[Middle English retribucion, repayment, reward, from Old French retribution, from Late Latin retribūtiō, retribūtiōn-, from Latin retribūtus, past participle of retribuere, to pay back : re-, re- + tribuere, to grant; see tribe.]

re·trib′u·tive (rĭ-trĭb′yə-tĭv), re·trib′u·to·ry (-tôr′ē) adj.
re·trib′u·tive·ly adv.


1. the act of punishing or taking vengeance for wrongdoing, sin, or injury
2. punishment or vengeance
[C14: via Old French from Church Latin retribūtiō, from Latin retribuere to repay, from re- + tribuere to pay; see tribute]
retributive, reˈtributory adj
reˈtributively adv


(ˌrɛ trəˈbyu ʃən)

1. requital according to merits or deserts, esp. for evil.
2. something given or inflicted in such requital.
3. Theol. the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life.
[1350–1400; Middle English retribucioun < Middle French < Late Latin retribūtiō (calque of Greek antídosis) = Latin retribū-, variant s. of retribuere to give back (something owed) (see re-, tribute) + -tiō -tion]
syn: See revenge.




chickens come home to roost An expression indicating that one has received his just deserts or met with a comeuppance. Robert Southey makes reference to this proverbial expression in The Curse of Kehama (1810):

Curses are like young chickens: they always come home to roost.

have the last laugh See SUCCESS.

laugh on the other side of one’s face or mouth To experience a comedown or to undergo a radical change in mood from happiness to sadness, usually as a result of meeting one’s comeuppance; to be sad, disappointed, or depressed; to fail after expecting or experiencing success, with the implication that such failure is deserved. Though the derivation of this expression is uncertain, it may refer to the fact that in a frown, the lips are turned down rather than up as in a smile.

We were made to laugh on the other side of our mouth by an unforeseen occurrence. (Benjamin Malkin, LeSage’s Adventures of Gil Bias of Santillane, 1809)

A variation is laugh on the wrong side of one’s face or mouth.

the mills of God grind slowly Retribution may be slow in coming, but justice will eventually triumph; sooner or later everyone will get what he deserves. This expression, a variant of which dates from the early 17th century, applies the metaphor of a mill grinding grain to the meting out of justice by the Almighty. The phrase appeared in the poem Retribution by Henry Wads-worth Longfellow:

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.

the shoe is on the other foot See REVERSAL.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.retribution - a justly deserved penalty
penalty - a payment required for not fulfilling a contract
2.retribution - the act of correcting for your wrongdoing
correction, rectification - the act of offering an improvement to replace a mistake; setting right
3.retribution - the act of taking revenge (harming someone in retaliation for something harmful that they have done) especially in the next liferetribution - the act of taking revenge (harming someone in retaliation for something harmful that they have done) especially in the next life; "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"--Romans 12:19; "For vengeance I would do nothing. This nation is too great to look for mere revenge"--James Garfield; "he swore vengeance on the man who betrayed him"; "the swiftness of divine retribution"
retaliation, revenge - action taken in return for an injury or offense


noun punishment, retaliation, reprisal, redress, justice, reward, reckoning, compensation, satisfaction, revenge, repayment, vengeance, Nemesis, recompense, an eye for an eye, requital He decided to get his retribution in first.
"Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;"
"Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all" [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Retribution]


The act of retaliating:
Idioms: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, like for like , measure for measure .
جَزاء، عِقاب
réttlát refsing, makleg málagjöld
pelnyta bausmė
hak edilen ceza


[ˌretrɪˈbjuːʃən] Njusto castigo m, pena f merecida


[ˌrɛtrɪˈbjuːʃən] nchâtiment m


nVergeltung f; in retributionals Vergeltung


[ˌrɛtrɪˈbjuːʃn] ncastigo


(retriˈbjuːʃən) noun
punishment, especially deserved.
References in classic literature ?
How can we elevate our history of retribution for the sin of long ago, when, as one of our most prominent figures, we are compelled to introduce--not a young and lovely woman, nor even the stately remains of beauty, storm-shattered by affliction--but a gaunt, sallow, rusty-jointed maiden, in a long-waisted silk gown, and with the strange horror of a turban on her head
Doubtless, however, either of these stern and black-browed Puritans would have thought it quite a sufficient retribution for his sins that, after so long a lapse of years, the old trunk of the family tree, with so much venerable moss upon it, should have borne, as its topmost bough, an idler like myself.
The fetid closeness of the air, and a famishing diet, united perhaps to some fears of ultimate retribution, had constrained them to surrender at discretion.
Retribution, swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead smote the ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled.
The retribution that followed every vengeful success was so sweeping and majestic that the boys always retired from the field badly worsted.
I will not invite retribution on my own head by assisting those children to continue the imposition which their parents practiced, and by helping them to take a place in the world to which they are not entitled.
Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.
They have not erected to themselves colossal statues upon pedestals of human bones, to provoke and insult the tardy hand of heavenly retribution.
Exorbitant duties on imported articles would beget a general spirit of smuggling; which is always prejudicial to the fair trader, and eventually to the revenue itself: they tend to render other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of the markets; they sometimes force industry out of its more natural channels into others in which it flows with less advantage; and in the last place, they oppress the merchant, who is often obliged to pay them himself without any retribution from the consumer.
A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.
Benedetto, if still living, will become the instrument of divine retribution in some way or other, and then be duly punished in his turn.
The lessons of yesterday had been that retribution was a laggard and blind.