Use castigate when you mean “to reprimand in an especially harsh way.” If you accidentally spill coffee all over your sister’s favorite sweater, you might worry that she’s going to castigate you as soon as she finds out.

Castigate means punish, and punish harshly, but the punishment is always a severe scolding. Sometimes it means criticize severely. Politicians in the Senate are always castigating each other for their alliances and opinions. Castigate and chasten, which also means “to reprimand” but is less severe, share the Latin root castus which means “pure.” Ideally, if you castigate someone, you mean to guide someone away from the wrong path and toward a more pure one. But it sure doesn’t feel like that when you’re being castigated!

Definitions of castigate
  1. verb

    inflict severe punishment on

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    type of:

    penalise, penalize, punish, sanction

    impose a penalty on; inflict punishment on

  2. verb

    censure severely

    chasten, chastise, correct, objurgate
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    criticize harshly, usually via an electronic medium
    type of:

    bawl out, berate, call down, call on the carpet, chew out, chew up, chide, dress down, have words, jaw, lambast, lambaste, lecture, rag, rebuke, remonstrate, reprimand, reproof, scold, take to task, trounce, vituperate

    censure severely or angrily

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