• To overcome or prevail over an opponent by a significant margin and with little effort

  • To sternly castigate or emphatically reproach


One thing common to the human experience is that it almost always feels good to win. Whether it’s your favorite sports team in the championship tournament or you, yourself, at your weekly board game night, it feels good to pit your skills against those of your competitors and emerge victorious. The only thing more rewarding than winning is to so thoroughly trounce your opponent that you can prove that they were no match for you!

Trounce is a verb which means to prevail over your opponent so completely that your distinction as the victor is clear by a significant measure and that your success came with ease. Thus, you would have to go well beyond merely besting your adversaries by a point or two to trounce them, but triumph with an enormous gulf between your score and theirs. And though accumulating such a considerable lead could result from grueling hard work, in many instances this tremendous difference is the result of egregiously mismatched contestants. One can not only be said to trounce their foe in literal games, athletic or intellectual, but also in any contest where two or more entrants are pitted against each other. For example, politicians could just as readily trounce their opponent in an election as a reigning champion sports team could.

The word trounce can also mean to chastise or severely reprimand someone. For instance, a parent could trounce a child trying to snag a cookie from the cabinet without permission, and so could a boss trounce an employee for arriving at work late for the third time that week. In this sense, to trounce is more than simply to issue a warning or a dole out a symbolic punishment, but to scathingly reproach the rule-breaking party. When trouncing an opponent or a mischievous individual, one firmly makes their case.

Example: Despite the fact that the two teams in the final match were thought to be evenly matched, the defending champion went on to trounce the challenger.

Example: Known for her severe discipline, the principal proceeded to trounce the truant student for 20 minutes before releasing him to his classes.


The exact origin of trounce is not known, but one theory suggests that the word derives from the Old French tronc, meaning “tree trunk.” This term inspired the Middle French tronce, meaning “piece of wood, timber” and, subsequently, the verb troncer, meaning “to cut a piece off of.” The first certain emergence of the word was in its present form in the mid-1500s, but it was employed to mean “to bother” or “to afflict.” A few decades later, trounce garnered the meaning of “to beat” or “to hit,” which informs its contemporary sense of defeating (i.e. beating).

Derivative Words

Trounces: This conjugation of trounce indicates when he or she is presently handily besting or mercilessly upbraiding someone.

Example: Even though she trounces him at Scrabble every time, he still tenaciously challenges her to a game every day.

Example: The CEO ruthlessly trounces anyone who deviates from his dictates in the slightest.

Trounced: The past tense form of trounce illustrates when one has soundly defeated or harshly rebuked another at a prior point.

Example: The pool shark trounced every comer so handily that he could afford to live off his winnings.

Example: The stock of the company got trounced on the news of a product recall.

Example: When the pool shark let slip that he made his money through such unscrupulous means, his mother trounced him so thoroughly that he never set foot in a pool hall again.

Trouncing: This progressive tense of trounce can not only signify that one is in the act of effortlessly winning or severely chastising, it can also serve as a noun to refer to a crushing defeat or stern reprimand.

Example: The team continued trouncing every championship opponent for three straight seasons before another franchise dethroned them.

Example: The former champions suffered such a trouncing that their coach was fired.

Example: The professor was known for trouncing any student who turned in an assignment late.

Example: Every student who submits their assignments even five minutes late runs the risk of suffering a trouncing in her office after class.

Trouncer: A trouncer is one who is responsible for doling out a crushing defeat or strong discipline. It is pluralized as trouncers.

Example: The machine learning algorithm proved the decisive trouncer in its match against the world champion of Go.

Example: Their father made for a stern trouncer if he ever caught the two siblings fighting.

In Literature

From Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind:

It is common nowadays to believe that the market always prevails, and that the dams erected by kings, priests and communities cannot long hold back the tides of money. This is naïve. Brutal warriors, religious fanatics and concerned citizens have repeatedly managed to trounce calculating merchants, and even to reshape the economy.

Harari uses this passage to dispel the notion that the economy is guided purely by the market forces of supply and demand. He does so by noting that the personal and political agendas of various groups ranging from soldiers to ordinary citizens have historically managed to resoundingly defeat, or trounce, the machinations of the free market.


  • Trust your hard work and practice and you will trounce your opponent.

  • If you are trounced, you will feel every ounce of the chastiser’s wrath.


Winning, Losing, Games, Punishment

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of trounce. Did you use trounce in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.