1. Grammar. a grammatical unit of one or more words that expresses an independent statement, question, request, command, exclamation, etc., and that typically has a subject as well as a predicate, as in John is here. or Is John here? In print or writing, a sentence typically begins with a capital letter and ends with appropriate punctuation; in speech it displays recognizable, communicative intonation patterns and is often marked by preceding and following pauses.
  2. Law.
    1. an authoritative decision; a judicial judgment or decree, especially the judicial determination of the punishment to be inflicted on a convicted criminal: Knowledgeable sources say that the judge will announce the sentence early next week.
    2. the punishment itself; term: a three-year sentence.
  3. Music. a complete idea, usually consisting of eight to sixteen measures; period(def 18).See also phrase(def 4).
  4. Archaic. a saying, apothegm, or maxim.
  5. Obsolete. an opinion given on a particular question.

verb (used with object), sen·tenced, sen·tenc·ing.

  1. to pronounce sentence upon; condemn to punishment: The judge sentenced her to six months in jail.


  1. a sequence of words capable of standing alone to make an assertion, ask a question, or give a command, usually consisting of a subject and a predicate containing a finite verb
  2. the judgment formally pronounced upon a person convicted in criminal proceedings, esp the decision as to what punishment is to be imposed
  3. an opinion, judgment, or decision
  4. music another word for period (def. 11)
  5. any short passage of scripture employed in liturgical usethe funeral sentences
  6. logic a well-formed expression, without variables
  7. archaic a proverb, maxim, or aphorism


  1. (tr) to pronounce sentence on (a convicted person) in a court of lawthe judge sentenced the murderer to life imprisonment

c.1200, “doctrine, authoritative teaching; an authoritative pronouncement,” from Old French sentence “judgment, decision; meaning; aphorism, maxim; statement of authority” (12c.) and directly from Latin sententia “thought, way of thinking, opinion; judgment, decision,” also “a thought expressed; aphorism, saying,” from sentientem, present participle of sentire “be of opinion, feel, perceive” (see sense (n.)). Loss of first -i- in Latin by dissimilation.

From early 14c. as “judgment rendered by God, or by one in authority; a verdict, decision in court;” from late 14c. as “understanding, wisdom; edifying subject matter.” From late 14c. as “subject matter or content of a letter, book, speech, etc.,” also in reference to a passage in a written work. Sense of “grammatically complete statement” is attested from mid-15c. “Meaning,” then “meaning expressed in words.” Related: Sentential.


“to pass judgment,” c.1400, from sentence (n.). Related: Sentenced; sentencing.

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