a. A sharp blow made with the open hand or with a flat object; a smack.
b. The sound of such a blow.
2. A sharp insult: a slap to one's pride.
v. slapped, slap·ping, slaps
1. To strike with the palm of the hand or a flat object: slapped him in the face.
2. To cause to strike forcefully and loudly: "He took a clipping from his wallet and slapped it on the bar" (Nathanael West).
3. To put or place quickly or carelessly: slapped butter on a bagel.
a. To subject to a legal obligation, such as a fine or court order: slapped him with a speeding ticket; slapped her with a lawsuit.
b. To impose (a legal obligation) on someone: The judge slapped an additional fine on the unruly defendant.
To strike or beat with the force and sound of a slap: waves slapping against the raft.
Directly and with force: drove slap into the guardrail.
To restrain or correct by emphatic censure; rebuke: "thought [he] was getting a little uppity and needed to be slapped down" (New York Times).
slap on the wrist
A nominal or token punishment.
[Middle English slappe.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.