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The World Law Dictionary Project

English may be the common language of the world, but the Common Law is not the common law of the world

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e.g. principle, consideration, jurisdiction
# a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

sanction noun

official permission or approval for something
The management refused to grant a sanction for his proposed move to a rival football club.

Hello, welcome to TransLegal's lesson of the week. Today we're going to talk about the word sanction. Now sanction is a tricky word. It's ambiguous. It has two meanings and these meanings are contradictory. It has both a positive and negative meaning. The positive meaning means approval of some sort, permission. The negative meaning means punishment or some sort of a strong action to make people obey. Now you may wonder, how do we know the difference – and it's very important to know the difference because they have such opposite meanings. Usually it is very contextual and we can see by the words that surround sanction what it means. For instance, in the phrase to give sanction to or grant sanction to it usually has the positive meaning of granting permission or granting approval whereas the negative meaning of punishment is used in phrases like issue sanctions against or impose sanctions on And then we often see that the negative meaning is described by various different adjectives like criminal sanctions or trade sanctions or economic sanctions or we can talk about lifting sanctions, for instance we often hear: The state will impose criminal sanctions against those who are convicted of a crime. The United Nations will impose trade sanctions on countries which violate human rights. and these are always negative. Now this is the noun form that we've talked about. Sanction is also a verb and in the verb, just like in the noun form, we have these two meanings. For instance, you can say the country's sanctioned the use of force against terrorists. From that context we understand that sanctioned means that the countries have given their approval or permission to use force against the terrorists. Or, in the negative meaning, we can say that the company sanctioned had to pay a fine of one million dollars. We understand from the fact that they had to pay a fine that they were sanctioned in a negative way. That that was the way they were punished. Now we also have the adjective sanctionable. And again, just like the noun and the verb, this also has two meanings. For instance, we can say that right now in California marijuana although it is legally not permitted it is socially sanctionable and medically sanctionable and then we use the positive meaning. And for the negative meaning we can say that the lawyer's failure to prepare for trial was sanctionable by the Bar Association and here it’s clear that we know that it is a bad thing not to prepare for trial and that the Bar Association sanctions lawyers with disciplinary sanctions. I will leave you with the word of warning to always be careful when you use the word sanction and use these collocations to make it very clear what you mean so that your listener or your reader knows whether you want to use the positive meaning or the negative meaning of sanction. Thank you for today, we look forward to seeing your comments. Bye.

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