Definition of sanction in English:


Pronunciation /ˈsaNG(k)SH(ə)n/ /ˈsæŋ(k)ʃ(ə)n/

See synonyms for sanction

Translate sanction into Spanish


  • 1A threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule.

    ‘a range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse’
    • ‘It is a way of recovering penalties by a sanction which is the most serious one known to our law.’
    • ‘A further argument is that if he renounces before the harm is caused, this may show that the threat of the criminal sanction has had a deterrent effect.’
    • ‘Both bars have also developed a set of sanctions for patrons who disobey the rules.’
    • ‘In such circumstances the sanction, or the threat of it, may not in practice be effective.’
    • ‘Only a specific statute that punishes all physical and emotional elder abuse will provide effective sanctions and deterrents for those who commit elder abuse.’
    • ‘The sanctions behind some rules may be only indirect, but they are nevertheless important in understanding the legal framework in which health care operates.’
    • ‘The imposition of such a sanction is punishment.’
    • ‘His aggressive behaviour on remand had led to the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.’
    • ‘Similarly, unlike many of their continental European neighbours, the English clung to corporal punishment as a penal sanction until well into the twentieth century.’
    • ‘He said he could not, and the Allies, attacking on the western front and encountering fierce opposition, started to threaten sanctions, which Russia could not afford.’
    • ‘Those sorts of factors are, in my judgment, relevant when looking at sanctions after a penalty has been imposed.’
    • ‘Did we save lives (or improve the security of those whose lives were threatened) by imposing sanctions in the case of Bosnia?’
    • ‘Thirty-nine powerful pharmaceutical companies threatened legal sanctions, and the government of the United States censure.’
    • ‘The AU was quick in its condemnation and has threatened sanctions against Togo unless it restores the status quo.’
    • ‘The White House is already threatening sanctions against Sudan if militia attacks in Darfur continue.’
    • ‘It appears to consider internal policy only when parliamentary committees flag up press behaviour that is not to their liking and threaten sanctions.’
    • ‘It has threatened financial sanctions against nations who do not comply with international money laundering rules.’
    • ‘The only response from Washington has been to threaten economic sanctions.’
    • ‘In response, the EPA has threatened legal sanctions against the council.’
    • ‘If we threaten them with economic sanctions then they're going to stop it.’
    penalty, punishment, deterrent
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1sanctionsMeasures taken by a nation to coerce another to conform to an international agreement or norms of conduct, typically in the form of restrictions on trade or on participation in official sporting events.
      ‘the United States had agreed to lift economic sanctions’
      • ‘The question arises whether the problem can be addressed indirectly through trade sanctions or restrictions to punish countries that refuse to improve environmental standards.’
      • ‘Legislation permitted magistrates to enforce employment agreements with penal sanctions in the form of imprisonment, fines, and physical punishment.’
      • ‘Imposing trade sanctions, although officials admit that Iran-Canada trade may not be extensive enough to serve as much of a lever.’
      • ‘The Chinese, for their part, are not so economically potent that they can ignore the risk of incurring international trade sanctions.’
      • ‘Trade sanctions provide a means of encouraging participation in agreements and penalizing signatories that step out of line.’
      • ‘International aid was suspended and trade sanctions imposed, but negotiations failed.’
      • ‘It argues that imposing trade sanctions on developing countries without considering the causes of child labour and without back-up programmes cannot provide an effective solution.’
      • ‘The United Nations Security Council has the power to impose the ultimate penalty against States failing to conform to international legal obligations - sanctions.’
      • ‘In the name of international labor standards, arbitrary and inflexible trade sanctions will be imposed on Third World countries.’
      • ‘He will address questions about international law, economic sanctions and citizenship in light of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.’
      • ‘The Berlin Decrees of 1806 were the first in a series of sanctions against Britain's trade known collectively as the Continental System.’
      • ‘The European Union is close to imposing $4 billion worth of trade sanctions on the U.S. for failure to remove tax subsidies to its exporters.’
      • ‘The United States is bracing for $150 million in trade sanctions by the European Union, Japan and several other countries.’
      • ‘Direct merchandise trade between the U.S. and Iran has declined significantly because of sanctions, but the trade impact has been limited.’
      • ‘When Washington conceded last year that the ETI should be removed, the EU refrained from imposing trade sanctions.’
      • ‘Snow also said trade sanctions against China now under debate in Congress could hurt U.S. businesses rather than help.’
      • ‘The United States responded by imposing trade sanctions.’
      • ‘The United Nations and European Union are opposed to trade sanctions against Burma.’
      • ‘If the war ends soon and the trade sanctions are lifted, oil prices are likely to fall even further.’
      • ‘The effectiveness of trade sanctions is questionable as they are easily circumvented.’
    2. 1.2Philosophy A consideration operating to enforce obedience to any rule of conduct.
      ‘Hume makes no attempt to connect morals with religion, no doubt because he saw that morals cannot be grounded on any form of authority, however powerful, though religious belief may operate as a sanction through its effect on the passions.’
      • ‘That, though a large factor in the moral bewilderment of the West, is a marginal issue for Nietzsche, whose main interest is in the nature of morality's sanctions in general.’
      • ‘And it claims that the conditions under which moral sanctions should be applied are determined by rules justified by their consequences.’
      • ‘The problem is that religion provides an ultimate sanction for your actions.’
      • ‘Community pressure remains in practice the only real sanction for enforcing compliance with arbitral awards, or with judgments of the ICJ or other international tribunals.’
  • 2Official permission or approval for an action.

    ‘he appealed to the bishop for his sanction’
    • ‘Her mother had sought court sanction for the operation to stop her daughter's periods and prevent her from getting pregnant.’
    • ‘They have urged Laois County Council to seek the immediate sanction of the National Roads Authority for the re-commencement of road words at Park, Stradbally.’
    • ‘They have to seek budgetary sanction of fund according to the requirement of this class I institution of the country contracting the higher ups in power.’
    • ‘In Newcastle, doctors sought legal sanction to treat a baby with a severe facial deformity against the wishes of her parents.’
    • ‘The ancients also used oracles to obtain sanction or approval, even though they had already decided on their course of action.’
    • ‘It has now sought sanction for running a coffee/tea vending outlet within the hospital to generate some revenue.’
    • ‘With sanction being sought from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for an all-out picket, the LRC has again stepped in to mediate in the dispute.’
    • ‘The municipal authorities should not give sanction for construction of houses, with more than 1,000 sq. ft. floor area, without a RWH structure.’
    • ‘The sanction of the proposed union by official state-appointed authorities is still a prominent feature of marriages.’
    • ‘A Teagasc spokesman said its board had sanctioned a proposed increase in fees but this requires ministerial sanction, which is in the process of being sought.’
    • ‘Montréal 2006 says the Games will go on with or without FGG sanction, who in turn say they will move the official Games to Atlanta.’
    • ‘Planning had been got and sanction for funding the housing element of the project had just been announced by the Dept of the Environment.’
    • ‘The Siptu national industrial secretary yesterday said the union had already secured sanction from its members for industrial action from tomorrow.’
    • ‘Sligo County Council still await sanction from the Dept. of the Environment to upgrade the Tubbercurry sewerage treatment facilities.’
    • ‘The museum, which is situated on the Rathangan / Allenwood road, is owned by Teagasc who are awaiting government sanction to sell the property.’
    • ‘He gives sanction to his 10,000 figure by saying it might underestimate the annual trafficking in sex slaves.’
    • ‘Other grants applied for are awaiting sanction.’
    • ‘Despite the problems the book had initially faced in finding a publisher in China - purportedly for its political overtones - it had finally received official sanction.’
    • ‘However, the travellers who have caravans parked there have been given official sanction of sorts by being allowed to purchase annual residents parking permits from the Borough Council.’
    authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, licence, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, seal of approval, stamp of approval, approbation, recognition, endorsement, accreditation, confirmation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur, clearance, acceptance, allowance
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Official confirmation or ratification of a law.
      ‘But the Directive leaves open the powers to the prosecution and sanction to the interpretation of individual states.’
      • ‘In the case of the South Australian Tribunal, my understanding, your Honour, is that it does not have a power to impose any direct sanction.’
      • ‘If it does not, then it is for Parliament, if it thinks fit, to provide the necessary sanction by providing a public law remedy linked directly to the protection of public rights.’
      • ‘The overarching discretion of the trial judge to take into account the particular circumstances of the offender is essential to the imposition of a fair and just sanction.’
      • ‘The Plan sanction should have been approved by the BDA.’
      • ‘In thus reifying as law what had been done in practice, the Court gave legal sanction to further transgressions against the remaining Native American communities.’
      support, backing, approval, seal of approval, agreement, acceptance, recommendation, advocacy, championship, patronage
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2Law historical A law or decree, especially an ecclesiastical decree.
      ‘That is to say, the common perception is that the validity of religious laws is ensured by divine sanction, while the utility of customary laws is assumed to have been proven through long experience.’
      • ‘It was an ecclesiastical sanction that had the effect of closing churches and suspending religious services.’

transitive verb

[with object]
  • 1Give official permission or approval for (an action)

    ‘only two treatments have been sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration’
    • ‘Under his draft guidelines, schemes would be officially sanctioned.’
    • ‘Training will commence just as soon as the GAA Club has sanctioned permission, as the Ladies Club will need to use this pitch.’
    • ‘It must be noted that these drugs have been sanctioned and approved by the Food and Drugs Administration of the US.’
    • ‘The claim comes on the back of revelations that the Orkney Flag cannot be sanctioned for official use in the county either because it has Irish links.’
    • ‘The Estate Office has a list of about 80 towers which were sanctioned and permission had been taken.’
    • ‘After that, planning permission has to be sanctioned by the Town Council.’
    • ‘The matters for consideration at this stage concern the jurisdiction of the court to sanction the scheme if it proceeds.’
    • ‘Furthermore, the court may sanction treatment that will shorten the life of a terminally ill child, in order to relieve suffering.’
    • ‘That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction, or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships.’
    • ‘The event is officially sanctioned by the Commonwealth Federation.’
    • ‘Upon arrival I was directed to an office and urged to buy an entrance ticket, a new scheme sanctioned by the county government to aid maintenance.’
    • ‘This principle usually gives a clear answer: doctors may be authorised by the court to treat a child if a parent refuses to sanction treatment that is clearly necessary for that child's welfare.’
    • ‘Actually, that's not entirely true - there was a smoking area and a small bar, but neither was officially sanctioned.’
    • ‘It has been officially sanctioned as the Beale Street Historic District.’
    • ‘Thus, disclosure of data may be sanctioned by a court order and is allowed where the data subject has consented to it.’
    • ‘It was during the first stage that the regime discovered that it could not officially sanction any one style or movement.’
    • ‘Britain has just become the first country to officially sanction genetic testing for insurance purposes.’
    • ‘That something belongs to tradition, or is sanctioned by authority, is no justification for its acceptance.’
    • ‘The issue of fairness, which remained, was for consideration at the hearing to sanction the scheme.’
    • ‘Monies and permission from all parties involved has been sanctioned.’
    authorize, consent to, permit, allow, give leave for, give permission for, warrant, accredit, license, give assent to, endorse, agree to, approve, accept, give one's blessing to, back, support
    View synonyms
  • 2Impose a sanction or penalty on.

    ‘foreigners in France illegally should be sent home, their employers sanctioned and border controls tightened up’
    • ‘As a result, more and more medical societies have begun to sanction members with penalties like suspension or revocation of their society membership.’
    • ‘Moreover, the actions of individuals who repeat rather than question, watch out for, punish, and sanction transgressions, lend these norms their strength.’
    • ‘They had to be punished or sanctioned, so this is the sanction that the judge came up with.’
    • ‘Governing bodies are allowed to sanction owners and teams.’
    punish, discipline someone for
    View synonyms


Sanction is confusing because it has two meanings that are almost opposite. In most domestic contexts, sanction means ‘approval, permission’: voters gave the measure their sanction. In foreign affairs, sanction means ‘penalty, deterrent’: international sanctions against the republic go into effect in January


Late Middle English (as a noun denoting an ecclesiastical decree): from French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify’. The verb dates from the late 18th century.