The Meaning of Reprisal: What It Is and How To Use It

This article will give you all of the information you need on the word reprisal, including its definition, usage, origin, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What is the definition of reprisal?

According to Dictionary, the word reprisal, pronounced “rɪˈpraɪz ə l” has numerous different meanings. The first meaning is used in regards to warfare, and means retaliation or fighting back against an enemy as payback for any injuries received. Second, the word can be used as a noun to describe said act or instance of retaliation. Third, a reprisal can be used to describe a forcible seizure of a certain property in retaliation to something else. Most often, a reprisal is used to describe something that is a retaliation against some damage or injury.

There are a couple of different words that one might confuse with the word reprisal .The first is the word revival. According to Merriam-Webster, a revival is the act of bringing something back to life, renewing attention or interest or something, or a new presentation or publication of something that is older. It can also mean restoring a force or effect with regards to a contract. 

Another word that might be confused with the word reprisal is the word reprise, which is often used with regard to musicals and their soundtracks. According to Master Class, this is frequently used when Broadway creators bring back an important or key song during the course of a musical. Sometimes these are abbreviated, but are often used to refer to a previous instance in the story or musical composition. These repetitions are known as a reprise. This word has the same root word as the word reprisal.

What are synonyms for the word reprisal?

There are many different words and phrases that one can use in place of the word reprisal. These words are known as synonyms. Synonyms are words that mean the same thing as a given word or phrase. In this case, one might choose to use a synonym for the word reprisal to clarify their meaning, to avoid repeating themselves, or to expand their vocabulary. A list of these synonyms is below, provided by Thesaurus.

  • Revenge
  • Payback
  • Paying back
  • Eye for an eye
  • Avenging
  • Requital
  • Counterstroke
  • Counterblow
  • Retaliation
  • Retribution
  • Vengeance

If one wished to describe the opposite of revenge, retaliation, or reprisal, they could use an antonym. An antonym is a word or phrase that means the opposite of a given word or phrase. A list of antonyms to the word reprisal is below, also from Thesaurus.

  • Forgiveness
  • Pardon
  • End of blame
  • Overlooking
  • Respite
  • Quittance
  • Absolution
  • Amnesty
  • Indemnity
  • Mercy
  • Remission
  • Reprieve
  • Clemency
  • Compassion
  • Exoneration
  • Acquittal

What is the etymology or origin of the word reprisal?

According to Etymonline, the word reprisal has been in common usage since the early 15th century. The word reprisal comes from the Old French reprisaille, which in modern French is spelled représaille. This word was taken from the Old Italian ripresaglia, represalia, or rappresaglia, which was taken from ripreso, the past participle of riprendere which is a verb that means “to take back.” Riprendere comes from the Latin reprendere or Latin reprehendere, which are also verbs meaning to take back. The English word reprehend has this same root.Using the word reprisal to mean retaliation has been common practice since around 1710.

How can the word reprisal be used in a sentence?

There are many different ways that the word reprisal can be used in different sentences. This word can be used to describe situations anywhere from petty arguments all the way up to large-scale military infractions relating to international law. In this first example, the word reprisal will be used on a smaller scale argument. In this example, Elissa is annoyed at her father for taking a trip to San Diego without her. She sulks in her room when he returns from the trip.

Dad: Knock-knock.

Elissa: What do you want?

Dad: Well, I would tell you about the trip if I didn’t have an immense fear of reprisal from you.

Elissa: It’s not fair. I told you I wanted to go and you went without me anyway. It would have been fun.

Dad: Honey, it was a work trip. I was stuck in conferences all day, you would have just been sitting in a hotel room.

Elissa: I could have gone to the beach.

Dad: There is no way I would have let a fifteen-year-old go to the beach all alone. Plus, I would have been jealous. I brought you this, though – a San Diego sand-globe!

Here, Elissa’s dad uses the word reprisal to describe that he fears Elissa’s wrath and retaliation should he tell her stories from his trip. In the next example, Elissa is in history class learning about the American Revolution.

Teacher: As a reprisal against the British in response to the taxes that were being levied against them, the Americans dumped all of the tea into the harbor. This protest event became known as the Boston Tea Party, and a very famous phrase came out of this event. Does anyone know what it is?

Elissa raises her hand.

Teacher: Elissa?

Elissa: No taxation without representation.

Teacher: Very good, Elissa!

Here, Elissa’s American history teacher uses the word reprisal to describe the retaliatory actions that the Americans took against the British in response to the taxes being levied against them, which preceded the American revolution.

Overall, the word reprisal means some retaliatory action that is taken against another, especially with regard to one country’s retaliation against another, according to Vocabulary. This word is used to refer to any revenge or repayment for damages or injuries.