Posted by: Jack Henry | January 16, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Persecute vs. Prosecute

We’re almost at the end of Merriam-Webster’s 2014 list of Top 10 Commonly Confused Words. Neither of today’s words is very pleasant: persecute and prosecute. Oh, and by the way, I did not write the example!


Does the manager persecute or prosecute the employees?



How to remember it:

To prosecute someone you need a legal process, something most managers don’t have.

To persecute is to harass people or treat them unfairly or cruelly. [KC – I guess we should be thankful we don’t work at Merriam-Webster!]

Not surprisingly, given these words’ similar meanings and spellings, persecute and prosecute share an ancestor: they both come from a Latin word meaning "to pursue."

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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