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pun·ish / ˈpənish/ • v. [tr.] inflict a penalty or sanction on (someone) as retribution for an offense, esp. a transgression of a legal or moral code: I have done wrong and I'm being punished for it. ∎  inflict a penalty or sanction on someone for (such an offense): fraudulent acts would be punished by up to two years in prison. ∎  treat (someone) in an unfairly harsh way: a rise in prescription charges would punish the poor. ∎  [usu. as adj.] (punishing) subject (someone or something) to severe and debilitating treatment: the recession was having a punishing effect on our business.DERIVATIVES: pun·ish·a·ble adj.pun·ish·er n.pun·ish·ing·ly adv.