imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome
(Redirected from Punishing)

Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group. The authority may be either a group or a single person, and punishment may be carried out formally under a system of law or informally in other kinds of social settings such as within a family.

If God were to punish men for what they have earned, He would not leave a single living creature to be spared. ~ Quran
A person has done evil, so another person, or a group of people, in order to fight this evil, cannot think of anything better than to create another evil, which they call punishment. ~ Leo Tolstoy
It is a question of whether, when we break a murderer on the wheel, we do not fall into the error a child makes when he hits the chair he has bumped into. ~ Georg Lichtenberg
Guide the people by law, subdue them by punishment; they may shun crime, but will be void of shame. Guide them by example, subdue them by courtesy; they will learn shame, and come to be good. ~ Confucius


  • Do not hurry over punishments and do not be pleased and do not be proud of your power to punish.
  • Punishment tames the man, but does not make him “better.”
    • Georg Brandes, “An Essay on Aristocratic Radicalism,” Friedrich Nietzsche, pp. 38-39.
  • Some have been beaten till they know
    What wood a cudgel's of by th' blow:
    Some kick'd until they can feel whether
    A shoe be Spanish or neat's leather.
  • By punishing the criminal the moral man hopes to dissuade the evil imprisoned in his own breast from escaping. Fear of self is projected in hatred of the immoral other.
    • John Carroll, Break-Out from the Crystal Palace (1974), p. 35.
  • Cavendum est ne major pœna quam culpa sit; et ne iisdem de causis alii plectantur, alii ne appellentur quidem.
    • Care should be taken that the punishment does not exceed the guilt; and also that some men do not suffer for offenses for which others are not even indicted.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), I. 23.
  • Guide the people by law, subdue them by punishment; they may shun crime, but will be void of shame. Guide them by example, subdue them by courtesy; they will learn shame, and come to be good.
  • Hail, hieroglyphic State machine,
    Contrived to punish fancy in;
    Men that are men in thee can feel no pain,
    And all thy insignificance disdain!
  • My object all sublime I shall achieve in time —
    To let the punishment fit the crime
    The punishment fit the crime;
    And make each prisoner pent
    Unwillingly represent
    A source of innocent merriment.
  • The wolf must die in his own skin.
  • Alas, one so easily becomes so habituated in life, in habit’s dull round of association with others, to the point of almost abandoning oneself while one plays with platitudes. But even one as pitiably spoiled as that, when speaking responsibly and admonishingly to a child, a youth, a young girl, speaks with a sense of shame. There is a beautiful like-for-like here: the youth approaches an older person with a sense of shame, and when the older person speaks admonishingly to a youth he always speaks with a sense of shame. Would to God that everyone who has the opportunity to speak admonishingly to the youth would himself also have some benefit from the shame of admonition!
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, March 13, 1847, Hong p. 58.
  • It is a question of whether, when we break a murderer on the wheel, we do not fall into the error a child makes when he hits the chair he has bumped into.
  • All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice.
  • Unrespited, unpitied, unrepriev'd.
    • John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667, 1674), Book II, line 185.
  • Our torments also may in length of time
    Become our elements.
    • John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667, 1674), Book II, line 274.
  • Back to thy punishment,
    False fugitive and to thy speed add wings.
    • John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667, 1674), Book II, line 699.
  • It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.
  • People produce example after example of the alleged relationship between cause and effect between guilt and punishment, confirm it as well founded and strengthen their faith … All, however, are at one in the wholly crude, unscientific character of their activity. … Popular medicine and popular morality belong together and ought not to be evaluated differently as they still are: both are the most dangerous pseudosciences.
  • Men of application and goodwill, assist in this one work: to take the concept of punishment which has overrun the whole world and root it out! There exists no more noxious weed!
  • Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.
  • Wherever responsibilities are sought, it is usually the instinct of wanting to judge and punish which is at work. Becoming has been deprived of its innocence when any being-such-and-such is traced back to will, to purposes, to acts of responsibility: the doctrine of the will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is, because one wanted to impute guilt. The entire old psychology, the psychology of will, was conditioned by the fact that its originators, the priests at the head of ancient communities, wanted to create for themselves the right to punish—or wanted to create this right for God … Men were considered “free” so that they might be judged and punished—so that they might become guilty: consequently, every act had to be considered as willed, and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness.
  • No one would instruct, no one would rebuke, or be angry with those whose calamities they suppose to be due to nature or chance; they do not try to punish or to prevent them from being what they are; they do but pity them. Who is so foolish as to chastise or instruct the ugly, or the diminutive, or the feeble? And for this reason. Because he knows that good and evil of this kind is the work of nature and of chance; whereas if a man is wanting in those good qualities which are attained by study and exercise and teaching, and has only the contrary evil qualities, other men are angry with him, and punish and reprove him—of these evil qualities one is impiety, another injustice, and they may be described generally as the very opposite of political virtue. In such cases any man will be angry with another, and reprimand him,—clearly because he thinks that by study and learning, the virtue in which the other is deficient may be acquired.
    • Plato, Protagoras in Protagoras 323d, Benjamin Jowett, trans.
  • If you will think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment, you will see at once that in the opinion of mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes the evil-doer under the notion, or for the reason, that he has done wrong,—only the unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But he who desires to inflict rational punishment does not retaliate for a past wrong which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is desirous that the man who is punished, and he who sees him punished, may be deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes for the sake of prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being taught.
    • Plato, Protagoras in Protagoras 324b, Benjamin Jowett, trans.
  • And if God were to punish men for what they have earned, He would not leave a single living creature to be spared. But He delays them to a predetermined time, then surely God is ever Seer of His servants.
  • Nor was thy Lord the one to annihilate a population until He had sent among them an messenger, rehearsing to them Our Warnings; nor are We going to destroy a population except when its members practice iniquity.
  • Whenever we feel sympathy would weaken us, we are a little closer to the torturer.
  • I am not part of the human race. Humanity has rejected me. The females of the human species have never wanted to mate with me, so how could I possibly consider myself part of humanity? Humanity has never accepted me among them, and now I know why. I am more than human. I am superior to them all. I am Elliot Rodger... Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent... Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god. Humanity is a disgusting, depraved, and evil species. It is my purpose to punish them all. I will purify the world of everything that is wrong with it. On the Day of Retribution, I will truly be a powerful god, punishing everyone I deem to be impure and depraved.
  • It has never been shown that punishment works. Punishment, denouncing, excluding, threatening, and shunning often create a worse society. It divides people, causes great pain, compromises individual integrity, and obscures truths in the name of falsely shoring up group reputation. Similarly, there is no correlation between having the ability to punish and being right. More often than not, the wrong people get punished. And the punishers use their power to keep from being accountable. So creating new classes of people who can threaten someone with the state, or who can call the police, does not produce more justice, and is more likely to produce more injustice.
  • Cruelties are practised in accordance with acts of senate and popular assembly, and the public is bidden to do that which is forbidden to the individual. Deeds that would be punished by loss of life when committed in secret, are praised by us because uniformed generals have carried them out.
  • Vex not his ghost: Oh; let him pass! he hates him,
    That would upon the rack of this tough world
    Stretch him out longer.
  • If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?
    If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future?
    If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers?
    If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?
    If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses?
  • It is folly to punish your neighbour by fire when you live next door.
  • Christ says, "Do not resist evil." The sole object of courts of law is – to resist evil. Christ enjoins us to return good for evil. Courts of law return evil for evil. Christ says, "Make no distinction between the just and the unjust." Courts of law do nothing else. Christ says, "Forgive all. Forgive not once, not seven times, but forgive without end." "Love your enemies." "Do good to those who hate you." Courts of law do not forgive, but they punish; they do not do good, but evil, to those whom they call the enemies of society. So, the true sense of the doctrine is that Christ forbids all courts of law.
  • A person has done evil, so another person, or a group of people, in order to fight this evil, cannot think of anything better than to create another evil, which they call punishment.
    • Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997).
  • Everything about our present system of punishments and about all criminal law will be thought of by future generations in the same way that we think of cannibalism or human sacrifice to the pagan gods. “How did they not see the uselessness and cruelty of those things which they did?” our descendants will say about us.
    • Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997).
  • The strongest proof that in the name of “science” we pursue unworthy and sometimes even harmful things is the existence of a science of punishment.
    • Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, P. Sekirin, trans. (1997), September 5.
  • A community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment than … by the occasional occurrence of crime.
  • The power of punishment is to silence, not to confute.
    • Walter Jon Williams, Incarnation Day (2006), reprinted in Rich Horton (ed.), Science Fiction: The Best of the Year 2007, p. 150

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922)


Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 649-652.

  • See they suffer death,
    But in their deaths remember they are men,
    Strain not the laws to make their tortures grievous.
  • Let them stew in their own grease (or juice).
    • Otto von Bismarck, at the time of the Franco-German war, to Mr. Malet at Meaux. See Labouchere — Diary of a Besieged Resident. Stewing in our own gravy. Ned Ward — London Spy, Part DC, pg. 219. (1709) (Describing a Turkish bath.) Idea in Viautus, Captives, Act I. Ver. 80-84. Teubner's ed.
  • Frieth in his own grease.
    • Geoffrey Chaucer, Wife of Bathes Tale, V. 6069. Prologue, line 487. Morris' ed. Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter XI. ("her" for "his.").
  • Noxiæ pœna par esto.
    • Let the punishment be equal with the offence.
    • Cicero, De Legibus, Book III. 20.
  • Diis proximus ille est
    Quem ratio non ira movet: qui factor rependens
    Consilio punire potest.
    • He is next to the gods whom reason, and not passion, impels; and who, after weighing the facts, can measure the punishment with discretion.
    • Claudinaus, De Consulatu Malii Theodori Panegyris, CCXXVII.
  • I stew all night in my own grease.
    • Nathaniel Cotton, Virgil Travestie, p. 35. (Ed. 1807). Fat enough to be stewed in their own liquor. Fuller]], Holy State and the Profane State, p. 396. (Ed. 1840).
  • Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
    • Deuteronomy, XIX. 21.
  • 'Tis I that call, remember Milo's end,
    Wedged in that timber which he strove to rend.
  • That is the bitterest of all, to wear the yoke of our own wrong-doing.
  • Send them into everlasting Coventry.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Manners. During the Civil War in England officers were sent for punishment to the garrison at Coventry.
  • Vengeance comes not slowly either upon you or any other wicked man, but steals silently and imperceptibly, placing its foot on the bad.
  • My punishment is greater than I can bear
    • Genesis, IV. 13.
  • Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.
    • Genesis, IX. 6.
  • Culpam pœna premit comes.
    • Punishment follows close on crime.
    • Horace, Carmina, IV. 5. 24.
  • Ne scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello.
    • Do not pursue with the terrible scourge him who deserves a slight whip.
    • Horace, Satires. I. 3. 119.
  • For whoso spareth the spring [switch] spilleth his children.
  • Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
    • Leviticus, XXIV. 20.
  • Quidquid multis peccatur inultum est.
    • The sins committed by many pass unpunished.
    • Lucan, Pharsalia. V. 260.
  • It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea.
    • Luke, XVII. 2.
  • The object of punishment is, prevention from evil; it never can be made impulsive to good.
    • Horace Mann, Lectures and Reports on Education. Lecture VII.
  • Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    • Mark, IX. 44.
  • Just prophet, let the damn'd one dwell
    Full in the sight of Paradise,
    Beholding heaven and feeling hell.
  • Ay—down to the dust with them, slaves as they are,
    From this hour, let the blood in their dastardly veins,
    That shrunk at the first touch of Liberty's war,
    Be wasted for tyrants, or stagnant in chains.
    • Thomas Moore, Lines on the Entry of the Austrians into Naples (1821).
  • Die and be damned.
  • Æquo animo pœnam, qui meruere, ferant.
    • Let those who have deserved their punishment, bear it patiently.
    • Ovid, Amorum (16 BC), II. 7. 12.
  • Paucite paucarum diffundere crimen in omnes.
    • Do not lay on the multitude the blame that is due to a few.
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, III. 9.
  • Estque pati pœnas quam meruisse minus.
    • It is less to suffer punishment than to deserve it.
    • Ovid, Epistolæ Ex Ponto, I. 1. 62.
  • Deos agere curam rerum humanarum credi, ex usu vitæ est: pœnasque maleficiis, aliquando seras, nunquam autem irritas esse.
    • It is advantageous that the gods should be believed to attend to the affairs of man; and the punishment for evil deeds, though sometimes late, is never fruitless.
    • Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, II. 5. 10.
  • Heaven is not always angry when he strikes,
    But most chastises those whom most he likes.
  • But if the first Eve
    Hard doom did receive
    When only one apple had she,
    What a punishment new
    Must be found out for you,
    Who eating hath robb'd the whole tree.
  • He that spareth his rod hateth his son.
    • Proverbs, XIII. 24.
  • To kiss the rod.
    • History of Reynard the Fox. William Caxton's translation., printed by him. (1481). Arber's English Scholar's Library, Chapter XII.
  • Quod antecedit tempus, maxima venturi supplicii pars est.
    • The time that precedes punishment is the severest part of it.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Beneficiis, II. 5.
  • Corrigendus est, qui peccet, et admonitione et vi, et molliter et aspere, meliorque tam sibi quam alii faciendus, non sine castigatione, sed sine ira.
    • He, who has committed a fault, is to be corrected both by advice and by force, kindly and harshly, and to be made better for himself as well as for another, not without chastisement, but without passion.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Ira, I. 14.
  • Maxima est factæ injuriæ pæna, fecisse: nec quisquam gravius adficitur, quam qui ad supplicium pœnitentiæ traditur.
    • The severest punishment a man can receive who has injured another, is to have committed the injury; and no man is more severely punished than he who is subject to the whip of his own repentance.
    • Seneca the Younger, De Ira, III. 26.
  • Nec ulla major pœna nequitiæ est, quam quod sibi et suis displicet.
    • There is no greater punishment of wickedness than that it is dissatisfied with itself and its deeds.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistolæ Ad Lucilium, XLII.
  • Sequitur superbos ultor a tergo deus.
  • Minor in parvis fortuna furit,
    Leviusque ferit leviora Deus.
    • Fortune is less severe against those of lesser degree, and God strikes what is weak with less power.
    • Seneca the Younger, Hippolytus, Act IV. 1124.
  • There is nothynge that more dyspleaseth God
    Than from theyr children to spare the rod.
  • Punitis ingeniis, gliscit auctoritas.
    • When men of talents are punished, authority is strengthened.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 35.
  • * Habet aliquid ex iniquo omne magnum exemplum, quod contra singulos, utilitate publica rependitus.
    • Every great example of punishment has in it some injustice, but the suffering individual is compensated by the public good.
    • Tacitus, Annales, XIV. 44.
  • Verbera sed audi.
    • Strike, but hear.
    • Themistocles, when Eurybiades, commander of the Spartan fleet, raised his staff to strike him. In Plutarch's Life of Themistocles, Chapter XI.
  • Ah, miser! et si quis primo perjuria celat,
    Sera tamen tacitis Pœna venit pedibus.
    • Ah, wretch! even though one may be able at first to conceal his perjuries, yet punishment creeps on, though late, with noiseless step.
    • Tibullus, Carmina. I. 9. 3.
  • They spare the rod, and spoyle the child.
  • What heavy guilt upon him lies!
    How cursed is his name!
    The ravens shall pick out his eyes,
    And eagles eat the same.
  • Du spottest noch? Erzittre! Immer schlafen
    Des Rächers Blitze nicht.
    • Thou mockest? Tremble! the avenger's lightning bolts do not forever dormant lie.
    • Christoph Martin Wieland, Oberon, I. 50.
  • Hanging was the worst use a man could be put to.
    • Sir Henry Wotton, The Disparity between Buckingham and Essex.
  • Jupiter is late in looking into his note-book.
    • Zenobius, Cent, IV. 11. Same idea in Horace]], Odes, III. 2. 30. Persius]], Satires, II. 24.
  • By an odd amalgam of liberal economic theory and Beccaria on punishment, nineteenth-century thinkers would replicate this exceptional relationship between markets and punishment: natural orderliness in the economic sphere, but government intervention in the penal realm. This is most evident in Jeremy Bentham’s work. The contrast between Bentham’s presumption of quietism in economic matters and his arch-interventionism in the penal domain effectively reproduced and reiterated the Physiocratic duality of economy and police. On the public economy side, Bentham tended toward Adam Smith’s liberalism. His Manual of Political Economy, written in the mid-1790s, rehearsed a presumption of governmental quietism based on his stringent belief in the superiority of individuals’ information and self-interest. But on the punishment side, Bentham embraced Beccaria’s philosophy whole cloth—especially Beccaria’s notion that policing is a sphere of human activity that must be shot through with government intervention. In fact, the criminal code, for Bentham, was precisely a “grand catalogue of prices” by means of which the government set the value of deviance. The penal code was a menu of fixed prices—the polar opposite of laissez-faire.
    • Bernard Harcourt, The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011), p. 36.
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 215-217.
  • I have heard that it was the perfection of the administration of criminal justice to take care that the punishment should come to few and the example to many.
  • Punishment is intended for example; but a person insane can have no design; and to punish him can be no example.
    • Lord Swinton, Kinloch's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 1001.
  • It is a duty not only to punish, but to prevent all manner of evil.
    • Lord Swinton, Kinloch's Case (1795), 25 How. St. Tr. 1001.
  • Furiosus absentis loco est. Non multum distant a brutis qui ratione carent: A madman is like a man who is absent. Those who want reason are not far removed from brutes.
    • 4 Co. 126.
  • Furiosus solo furore punitur: Let a madman be punished by his madness alone.
    • Co. Litt. 247.
  • "The execution of an offender is by way of example, ut poena ad paucos, metus ad omnes perveniat" (Co. 3 Inst. 6): but so it is not when a madman is executed: but should be a miserable spectacle, both against law, and of extreme inhumanity and cruelty, and can be of no example to others.
    • Steph. Com. Vol. IV. (8th ed.), Book VI., c. ii, 27.
  • Multiplicata trasgressione crescat poena inflictis: Let infliction of punishment increase with multiplied crime.
    • 2 Inst. 479.
  • The wishes of every human man are, that guilt may not be fixed upon any man; but I confess I am one of those who have not the weakness—which weakness, a Judge at least, and a jury, must get rid of, before they fit themselves to fill the respective stations which they are to fill in the administration of the justice of the country— I say, therefore, I am not one of those who wish under false compassion, inconsistent with the administration of criminal justice, that a person on whom guilt is fairly fixed, should escape the punishment which the law annexes to his guilt.
    • Lord Kenyon, Stone's Case (1796), 25 How. St. Tr. 1423.
  • In dispensing the criminal justice of the country, we have sometimes an arduous task to perform. It is not a pleasant thing, most certainly, to condemn any one of our fellow creatures to punishment; but those who are entrusted with the administration of the criminal justice of a country, must summon up their fortitude, and render justice to the public, as well as justice tempered with mercy to the individual.
    • Lord Kenyon, Trial of the Earl of Thanet, and others (1799), 27 How. St. Tr. 939.
  • . . . —a Court where neither favour nor interest can protect you; but where punishment will be impartially inflicted, according to every man's demerit . . . examples become necessary, pro salute reipuhlicm. It is not in the power of this supreme Court of criminal jurisdiction, considering the venality of the times, to cleanse the Augean stable, and therefore our only consolation must be "est aliquod prodire tenus si non datur ultra."
    • Willes, J., R. v. Bembridge (1783), 22 How. St. Tr. 157.
  • Pane potius molliendce quam exasperandee sunt: Punishments should rather be softened than aggravated.
    • 3 Inst. 220.
  • Melior est justitia vere prteveniens, quam severe puniens: Justice truly preventing is better than severely punishing.
    • 3 Inst. Epil.
  • Praestat cautela quam medela: Caution is better than cure.
    • Co. Litt. 304.
  • Prevention is better than cure.
    • Pr.
  • I shall temper so justice with mercy.
  • Mercy seasons justice.
    • Shaks., "Merchant of Venice," Act IV., Bc. i. The beautiful lines in the same play: "The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth like the gentle dew from Heaven," are but an echo of Ecclus. xxx v., 20.
  • No legal punishment is inflicted for revenge; all are for correction of the individual delinquent or others. All are pro salute animarum.
    • Brett, L.J., Martin v. Mackonochie (1879), L. R. 4 Q. B. 753.
  • A power to imprison does not give a power to fine. I cannot accede to the proposition that in England in penal jurisdiction the admitted power to award a particular punishment involves the power of awarding every lesser punishment.
    • Brett, L.J., Martin v. Mackonochie (1879), L. R. 4 Q. B. D. 754.
  • A learned county court judge told me that at first he used to make orders of committal for a short time and he found that the people went to prison. He then lengthened the period, and he found that fewer people went to prison; and he found that the longer the period for which he committed people to prison for not paying, the shorter was the total amount of imprisonment suffered by debtors, because when they were committed for the whole six weeks they moved heaven and earth among their friends to get the funds and pay; whereas if the term was a short one, they underwent the punishment.
    • Lord Bramwell, Stonor v. Fowle (1887), L. R. 13 Ap. Ca. 28.
  • We cannot explore any mode of sentencing a man to imprisonment, who is imprisoned already, but by tacking one imprisonment to the other.
    • Wilmot, L.C.J., Wilkes' Case (1763), 19 How. St. Tr. 1134.
  • Violent courses are like to hot waters that may do good in an extremity, but the use of them doth spoil the stomach, and it will require them stronger and stronger, and by little and little they will lessen their own operation.
    • Co. 4 Inst. 47.

See also

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