Restitution vs retribution

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Restitution and retribution are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. They are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of restitution and retribution, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Restitution is compensation for a loss or injury, bringing something back to its original state or restoring ownership of something stolen or something lost. Restitution is a mass noun, which is a noun that can not be counted and does not have a plural form. The word restitution is derived from the Latin word restitutionem, which means a restoration.

Retribution is punishment of someone who has committed a criminal act or a moral wrong. Retribution is not meted out to innocent people. The word restribution is derived from the Latin word retributionem, which means repayment, to pay back. Retribution is also a mass noun.


A Casper woman has acknowledged failing to pay restitution after lying about her son’s health in order to collect thousands of dollars in donations from the community. (U.S. News & World Report)

The hearing panel ordered that respondent’s license to practice law in Michigan be suspended for 45 days and that respondent pay restitution. (Michigan Lawyers Weekly)

However, we need to be sure that in responding, we do not seek retribution where we should be identifying solutions. (USA Today)

Retribution was swift with Tebu brigades killing an army officer and policeman, both understood to be Awlad Suieman. (The Libya Herald)

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is seeking retribution against Birmingham attorney Donald V. Watkins Sr. for alleged misconduct in his former position at Alamerica Bank. (The Birmingham Business Journal)