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


1. The imposition of a penalty or deprivation for wrongdoing: the swift punishment of all offenders.
2. A penalty imposed for wrongdoing: "The severity of the punishment must ... be in keeping with the kind of obligation which has been violated" (Simone Weil).
3. Rough treatment or use: These old skis have taken a lot of punishment over the years.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (Law) a penalty or sanction given for any crime or offence
2. (Law) the act of punishing or state of being punished
3. informal rough treatment
4. (Psychology) psychol any aversive stimulus administered to an organism as part of training
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈpʌn ɪʃ mənt)

1. the act of punishing.
2. the fact of being punished.
3. a penalty inflicted for an offense or fault.
4. severe handling or treatment.
[1250–1300; Middle English punysshement < Anglo-French punisement, Old French punissement. See punish, -ment]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


See also banishment; crime

1. punishment or penalty applied at the discretion of a court or other authority, as contrasted with a penalty predetermined by statute.
2. the imposing of such a penalty. — amercer, n.
Humorous. advocacy of the use of a cane in corporal punishment.
Obsolete, the process of removing the tongue.
Obsolete, the act of castrating.
Obsolete, the process of blinding.
beating with a stick or club.
an abnormal fear of being beaten. Also called rhabdophobia.
an abnormal fear of punishment.
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



the devil to pay Consequences to be suffered; a dear price to be paid; trouble, confusion, or a “fate worse than death” to be endured. The first and most convincing of the three possible origins of this expression is that it alludes to the alleged bargains made between the devil and an individual such as Faust, the chief character in a medieval legend who traded his soul for knowledge and power. Another popular explanation is that many London barristers mixed work and pleasure in an inn called the Devil Tavern in Fleet Street. Their excuse for working was that they had to pay the “Devil” for their drinks. Still other sources cite the significance of the nautical use of devil to pay and the longer devil to pay and no pitch hot The “devil” is a seam in a ship near the keel and “to pay” is to cover the seam with pitch. The difficulty of “paying the devil” is said to have given rise to the figurative uses of the devil to pay. This expression has been in print since the early 18th century. See also between the devil and the deep blue sea, PREDICAMENT.

get it in the neck To be reprimanded or disciplined; to be severely chastised; to bear the brunt. This expression has its origins in the punishment of decapitation, in which the guillotine’s blade cleaved off one’s head at the neck. Figuratively, the phrase usually refers to an undeserving victim of castigation or loss:

It’s the poor old vicar who gets it most in the neck. … He runs the risk of losing the best-kept-village competition because … the churchyard is looking its shaggiest. {Guardian, June, 1973)

The expression is not limited in application to that which has a neck, even a figurative one:

You probably don’t know what a village looks like when it has caught it in the neck. (D. O. Barnett, Letters, 1914)

get one’s lumps See ADVERSITY.

go to heaven in a wheelbarrow To be damned to eternal suffering; to go to hell. This obsolete expression has been traced to a window in Gloucestershire, England, depicting Satan wheeling away a termagant woman in a wheelbarrow.

This oppressor must needs go to heaven, … But it will be, as the by-word is, in a Wheel-barrow; the fiends, and not the Angels will take hold on him. (Thomas Adams, Gods Bounty, 1618)

See also go to hell in a handbasket, DEGENERATION.

heads will roll Those responsible will be held accountable; there’s trouble in the offing. This American slang expression is of fairly recent vintage, though it alludes to former times when beheading was common and heads literally did roll as a result of an enraged monarch’s fit of anger at his subjects’ incompetence, betrayal, or rebelliousness.

kiss the rod See SUBMISSIVENESS.

lower the boom To punish; to severely chastise or discipline; to prohibit. This expression originally described a nautical maneuver by which one of the ship’s booms was directed so as to knock an offending seaman overboard. The expression later developed into a prize fighting term for delivering a haymaker. In contemporary usage, the phrase is often applied to an activity which is abruptly terminated through anger or castigation.

Just as they were about to pawn my studs … my patience evaporated and I lowered the boom on them. (The New Yorker, June, 1951)

pin [someone’s] ears back See REPRIMAND.

ride on a rail To punish severely, to chastise mercilessly; to subject to public abuse and scorn; to banish, ostracize, or exile; in the latter sense usually to ride out of town on a rail. It was formerly the practice to punish a wrongdoer by seating him astride a rail, or horizontal beam, and then carrying him about town as an object of derision. Often he was then taken to the village limits and warned not to set foot in the town again under pain of yet more severe punishment.

The millmen … [hesitated whether to] ride him on a rail, or refresh him with an ablution at the town-pump. (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice Told Tales, 1837)

run the gauntlet See ADVERSITY.

send up the river To send to prison. This American expression originally referred to the incarceration of an offender at Sing Sing—a notorious correctional facility located up the Hudson River from New York City. The phrase has now been extended to include any imprisonment.

I done it. Send me up the river. Give me the hot seat. (Chicago Daily News, March, 1946)

stand the gaff See ENDURANCE.

send to Coventry To ostracize or exclude from society because of objectionable behavior; to refuse to associate with, to ignore. Several explanations have been proposed as to the origin of this expression. The most plausible was put forth by Edward Hyde Clarendon in A History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1647). It stated that citizens of a town called Bromigham were in the habit of attacking small groups of the King’s men and either killing them or taking them prisoner and sending them to Coventry, then a Parliamentary stronghold. A less plausible explanation maintains that the inhabitants of Coventry so hated soldiers that any social intercourse with them was strictly forbidden. Thus, a soldier sent to Coventry was as good as cut off from all social relations for the duration of his stay.

take the bark off To flog or chastise, to give one a hiding. This 19th-century Americanism, implying a flogging or whipping so severe as to flay one’s skin, likens the skin on a person to the bark on a tree.

The old man’s going to take the bark off both of us. (Johnson J. Hooper, The Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, 1845)

take the rap To accept or be given the responsibility and punishment for a crime, especially one committed by another; to take the blame. Although this expression apparently employs rap in its sense of ‘blame or punishment,’ one source suggests that the phrase may in fact be a corruption of the theatrical take the nap ‘to be dealt a feigned blow.’

I don’t think though, I shall be able to take the nap much longer. (Era Almanach, 1877)
He carried the banner and took the rap for Roosevelt in the Senate for years. (Saturday Evening Post, July 2, 1949)

Related expressions are bum rap ‘a frame-up; a conviction for a crime of which one is innocent,’ and beat the rap ‘to be acquitted or absolved of blame,’ usually with the implication that one is indeed guilty.

[Senator] Kefauver [and his Congressional committee] realize that as dope peddling and boot-legging are made more difficult, the crooks will start looking for new ways to beat the rap. (P. Edson, AP wire story, September, 1951)

Rap itself is often used as a synonym for an arrest, a trial, or a jail sentence.

Gangs with influence can beat about 90% of their “raps” or arrests. (Emanuel Lavine, The Third Degree: A Detailed Exposé of Police Brutality, 1930)

tar and feather To punish harshly or castigate severely. This expression is derived from the brutal punishment in which the victim was doused with hot tar and subsequently covered with feathers. In 1189, this form of chastisement received royal sanction in England. While it was never ordained as a legal penalty in the United States, it nevertheless became a form of punishment by the masses for a crime or misdoing which fell outside the realm of the law. It retains frequent hyperbolic use.

throw the book at To give a convicted criminal the maximum penalty or sentence; to prosecute on the most serious of several charges stemming from a single incident, especially when it would be possible to try a person on a lesser charge; to accuse of several crimes. This expression conjures images of a judge’s referring to a law book to compile a list of all possible wrongdoings of which a prisoner may be accused, or a list of the most severe penalties that may be assessed for the crime(s) of which a person has been convicted.

He was formally charged with “breaking ranks while in formation, felonious assault, indiscriminate behaviour, mopery, high treason, provoking, being a smart guy, listening to classical music, and so on.” In short, they threw the book at him. (Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1962)

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.punishment - the act of punishingpunishment - the act of punishing      
social control - control exerted (actively or passively) by group action
chastisement, castigation - verbal punishment
corporal punishment - the infliction of physical injury on someone convicted of committing a crime
cruel and unusual punishment - punishment prohibited by the 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution; includes torture or degradation or punishment too severe for the crime committed
detention - a punishment in which a student must stay at school after others have gone home; "the detention of tardy pupils"
discipline, correction - the act of punishing; "the offenders deserved the harsh discipline they received"
economic strangulation - punishment of a group by cutting off commercial dealings with them; "the economic strangulation of the Jews by the Nazi Party"
imprisonment - putting someone in prison or in jail as lawful punishment
medicine, music - punishment for one's actions; "you have to face the music"; "take your medicine"
self-punishment - punishment inflicted on yourself
stick - threat of a penalty; "the policy so far is all stick and no carrot"
self-abasement, self-mortification, penance - voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrongdoing
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. penalizing, discipline, correction, retribution, what for (informal), chastening, just deserts, chastisement, punitive measures The man is guilty and he deserves punishment.
2. penalty, reward, sanction, penance, comeuppance (slang) The usual punishment is a fine.
3. (Informal) beating, abuse, torture, pain, victimization, manhandling, maltreatment, rough treatment He took a lot of punishment in the first few rounds of the fight.
4. rough treatment, abuse, maltreatment This bike isn't designed to take that kind of punishment.
Related words
fear poinephobia
"Let the punishment fit the crime" [W.S. Gilbert The Mikado]
"Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" Bible: Genesis
"They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" Bible: Hosea
"Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen" [George Savile, Marquess of Halifax Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts]
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


Something, such as loss, pain, or confinement, imposed for wrongdoing:
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
عِقَابعِقاب، مُعاقَبَهعُقوبَه
cezacezalandır ma
sự trừng phạt


[ˈpʌnɪʃmənt] N
1. (= punishing, penalty) → castigo m
to make the punishment fit the crimedeterminar un castigo acorde con la gravedad del crimen
to take one's punishmentaceptar el castigo
2. (fig) → malos tratos mpl
to take a lot of punishment (Sport) → recibir una paliza; [car, furniture etc] → recibir muchos golpes
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈpʌnɪʃmənt] n
(for wrongdoing)punition f
Punishment and prison sentences cannot reform the hardened criminal → Les punitions et les peines de prisons ne peuvent réformer les criminels endurcis.
The usual punishment is a fine
BUT La sanction habituelle est une amende.
physical punishment (= corporal punishment) → punitions fpl corporelles
(= harsh treatment) to take a lot of punishment [boxer] → encaisser beaucoup de coups; [car, equipment, person, body] → être mis(e) à rude épreuve
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(= penalty)Strafe f; (= punishing)Bestrafung f; you know the punishment for such offencesSie wissen, welche Strafe darauf steht; to take one’s punishmentseine Strafe akzeptieren; punishment beatingBestrafungsaktion f
(fig inf) to take a lot of punishment (car, furniture etc) → stark strapaziert werden; (Sport) → vorgeführt werden (inf)
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈpʌnɪʃmənt] n
a. (punishing) → punizione f, castigo; (penalty) → pena
to take one's punishment → subire il castigo
to make the punishment fit the crime → punire secondo il reato
b. (fig) (fam) to take a lot of punishment (boxer) → incassare parecchi colpi; (car) → essere messo/a a dura prova; (furniture) → essere maltrattato/a
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ˈpaniʃ) verb
1. to cause to suffer for a crime or fault. He was punished for stealing the money.
2. to give punishment for. The teacher punishes disobedience.
ˈpunishable adjective
(of offences etc) able or likely to be punished by law. Driving without a licence is a punishable offence.
ˈpunishment noun
1. the act of punishing or process of being punished.
2. suffering, or a penalty, imposed for a crime, fault etc. He was sent to prison for two years as (a) punishment.
punitive (ˈpjuːnətiv) adjective
giving punishment.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


عِقَاب trest straf Strafe τιμωρία castigo rangaistus punition kazna punizione 処罰 straf straff kara punição наказание straff การลงโทษ ceza sự trừng phạt 惩罚
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009
References in classic literature ?
"I understand," he said, "you confess; but a confession made to the judges, a confession made at the last moment, extorted when the crime cannot be denied, diminishes not the punishment inflicted on the guilty!"
After having combined with the Executive in betraying the interests of the nation in a ruinous treaty, what prospect, it is asked, would there be of their being made to suffer the punishment they would deserve, when they were themselves to decide upon the accusation brought against them for the treachery of which they have been guilty?
But suppose the worst: you have no right to say that the guilt of her crime lies with him, and that he ought to bear the punishment. It is not for us men to apportion the shares of moral guilt and retribution.
Happier than many of his comrades, Defoe succeeded in escaping death or even punishment. Secretly and safely he returned to London and there quietly again took up his trade of merchant hosier.
"Yes, indeed," replied the genius, "and I will give up to you the third of the merchant's punishment."
Nor shall I recount further incidents of the life that is now to end--a life of wandering, always and everywhere haunted by an overmastering sense of crime in punishment of wrong and of terror in punishment of crime.
Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve from the fear of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable.
And if the punishment be not also a right and an honour to the transgressor, I do not like your punishing.
As White Fang watched Weedon Scott approach, he bristled and snarled to advertise that he would not submit to punishment. Twenty-four hours had passed since he had slashed open the hand that was now bandaged and held up by a sling to keep the blood out of it.
To escape punishment was to escape accusation; and few slaves had the fortune to do either, under the overseership of Mr.
But when he is detected in any unseemly act now, it is my stern practice to cane my writing table in his presence, and even this punishment is almost more than he can bear.
It is probable, that by disclosing this secret, which had been communicated in the utmost confidence to him, young Blifil preserved his companion from a good lashing; for the offence of the bloody nose would have been of itself sufficient cause for Thwackum to have proceeded to correction; but now this was totally absorbed in the consideration of the other matter; and with regard to this, Mr Allworthy declared privately, he thought the boy deserved reward rather than punishment, so that Thwackum's hand was withheld by a general pardon.