In the phrase "They were hugely punished", am I implying that the punished subjects had done something wrong? If so, is there a word that has the same meaning as punish (meaning damage done to someone, physically and/or psychologycaly) but without the implied guilt?

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    punishment in no way implies guilt. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to say that people are unfairly punished.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 14:41
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    @Lambie - However, the fact of punishment (in this meaning) clearly implies a belief in or assumption of guilt. Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 18:41
  • @WhatRoughBeast We don't actually have a clear context.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


Punish has 3 forms: Punish (verb) to inflict a punishment (noun) on a person. Punishing (adjective) use the known harshness of punishments to describe other (often unrelated) activities

1. Inflict a penalty or sanction on (someone) as retribution for an offence, especially a transgression of a legal or moral code.

It doesn't imply guilt, it states guilt as that is the meaning of punish.

There are hundreds of words to mean hurt somebody, hurt being the first good example.

There is a informal usage of punishment

[mass noun]
1.2. informal Rough treatment or handling.
‘your machine can take a fair amount of punishment before falling to bits’

or punishing

1. Physically and mentally demanding; arduous.

    ‘the band's punishing tour schedule’

  1.1 Severe and debilitating.

     'the recession was having a punishing effect on our business’

There is this definition for punish

1.4 Subject to severe and debilitating treatment.

BUT if you look at the example sentences they are all using punishing as an adjective, rather than Punish the verb

all definitions are from oxford dictionary

"They were hugely punished"

isn't actually correct, you can't be hugely punished, The 2 just don't go together. Huge is a counting/size qualifier and punish is a verb, there is one punish of 1 size, just different severity.

You could be severely punished, unfairly punished, mildly punished, but NOT Hugely. You could take a huge punishment because that is a noun. A thing has a size an action does not.

  • However I've seen "punish" used in many ways, as in "this game is very punishing" that use punish as a rough treatment or handling. I feel like "hugely punishing" would be commonly accepted as correct, but I'm not sure if it belongs in a formal setting
    – Cilvet
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:48
  • Agree with WendyG that "hugely punished" ain't great. Though "hugely entertaining"is popular.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 14:40
  • and "hugely educational", which writing this answer has been. punish is a word very similar to burgle/burglar /burgled, they sound like the same word but are actually verbs/ nouns etc.
    – WendyG
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 14:46
  • I think "severely punishing" is what I was looking for here. Really good explanation, thanks!
    – Cilvet
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 8:49

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