1. Punishment administered in return for a wrong committed.
2. Theology Punishment or reward distributed in a future life based on performance in this one.
[Middle English retribucion, repayment, reward, from Old French retribution, from Late Latin retribūtiō, retribūtiōn-, from Latin retribūtus, past participle of retribuere, to pay back : re-, re- + tribuere, to grant; see TRIBE.]
re·tribu·tive (rĭ-trĭbyə-tĭv), re·tribu·to·ry (-tôr′ē) 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.