Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Sanction

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is sanction. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Sanction means both “to give effective or authoritative approval or consent to” and “to impose a penalty or economically or militarily coercive measures.”

// Because he was using equipment that was not sanctioned by league officials, Jared was disqualified from the competition.

SANCTION in Context

“Johnson himself was fined 50 pounds (about $63), making him the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office.” — Jaweed Kaleem, The Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2022

Did You Know?

The noun sanction, meaning “authoritative approval” or “a coercive measure,” entered English in the 15th century, and originally referred to a formal decree or law, especially an ecclesiastical decree. (The Latin sancire, meaning “to make holy,” is an ancestor.) The noun’s meaning then extended in different directions. By the end of the 17th century, it could refer to both a means of enforcing a law (a sense that in the 20th century we began using especially for economic penalties against nations violating international law) and the process of formally approving or ratifying a law. When the verb sanction appeared in the 18th century, it had to do with ratifying laws as well, but it soon acquired an additional, looser sense: “to approve.”

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