- Authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid. See Synonyms at permission.
- Support or encouragement, as from public opinion or established custom.
- A consideration, influence, or principle that dictates an ethical choice.
a. The penalty for noncompliance with a law or legal order.
b. A penalty, specified or in the form of moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance with a social standard or norm.
c. A coercive measure adopted usually by several nations acting together against a nation violating international law.
transitive verbsanc·tioned, sanc·tion·ing, sanc·tions
- To give official authorization or approval to: voting rights that are sanctioned by law.
- To encourage or tolerate by indicating approval: His colleagues sanctioned his new research.
- To penalize, as for violating a moral principle or international law: “Half of the public defenders of accused murderers were sanctioned by the Texas bar for legal misbehavior or incompetence” ( Garry Wills )
Origin of sanction
Middle English enactment of a law from
Old French ecclesiastical decree from
Latin sānctiō sānctiōn- binding law, penal sanction from sānctus holy
; see sanctify
Occasionally, a word can have contradictory meanings. Such a case is represented by sanction,
which can mean both “to allow, encourage” and “to punish so as to deter.” Sanction
comes from the Latin word sānctiō,
meaning “a law or decree that is sacred or inviolable.” This noun is related to the Latin verb sancīre,
which basically meant “to render sacred or inviolable by a religious act,” but was also used in such extended meanings as “to ordain,” “to decree,” and “to forbid under pain of punishment.” Thus from the beginning, two fundamental notions of law were wrapped up in the word: law as something that permits or approves and law that forbids by punishing. In English, the word sanction
is first recorded in the mid-1500s in the meaning “law, decree.” Not long after, in the 1600s, it also came to be used to refer to the penalty enacted to cause one to obey a law or decree. From the noun, a verb sanction
was created in the 18th century meaning “to allow by law,” but it wasn't until the second half of the 1900s that it began to mean “to punish (for breaking a law).” English has a few other words that can refer to opposites, such as the verbs dust
(meaning both “to remove dust from” and “to put dust on”) and trim
(meaning both “to cut something away” and “to add something as an ornament”).
- An approval, by an authority, generally one that makes something valid.
- A penalty, or some coercive measure, intended to ensure compliance; especially one adopted by several nations, or by an international body.
- A law, treaty, or contract, or a clause within a law, treaty, or contract, specifying the above.
(third-person singular simple present sanctions, present participle sanctioning, simple past and past participle sanctioned)
- To ratify; to make valid.
- To give official authorization or approval to; to countenance.
- To penalize (a State etc.) with sanctions.
From French sanction.