tr.v. per·se·cut·ed, per·se·cut·ing, per·se·cutes
1. To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.
2. To annoy persistently; bother: persecuted the babysitter with foolish questions.
[Middle English, from Old French persecuter, back-formation from persecuteur, persecutor, from Late Latin persecūtor, from persecūtus, past participle of persequī, to persecute, from Latin, to pursue : per-, per- + sequī, to follow; see sekw-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
per′se·cu·tee (-ky-tē) n.
perse·cu′tive, perse·cu·to′ry (-ky-tôr′ē, -ky′tə-rē) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.