n. pl. pen·al·ties
1. A punishment imposed for a violation of law.
2. A sum established by a contract to be forfeited in lieu of actual damages in the event of a breach of the contract.
3. The disadvantage or painful consequences resulting from an action or condition: neglected his health and paid the penalty.
a. A punishment, handicap, or loss of advantage imposed on a team or competitor for infraction of a rule.
b. An infraction of a rule; a foul.
c. A penalty kick.
d. A penalty shot.
5. Games Points scored in contract bridge by the opponents when the declarer fails to make a bid.
[Middle English penalte, from Old French penalite, from Medieval Latin poenālitās, from Latin poenālis, penal; see PENAL.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.