I recently learned two similar words that seem to mean "to punish." What's the difference?
惩处 - to penalize
惩罚 - to punish
The difference between these two words described on this site: enter link description here
As verbs the difference between penalize and punish is that penalize is to subject to a penalty, especially for the infringement of a rule or regulation while punish is to cause to suffer for crime or misconduct, to administer disciplinary action.
懲處 is more specific, 懲罰 is more general
懲處 - to penalize (to inflict a penalty on)
懲罰 - to punish (to deal with roughly or harshly for one's deed; to impose a penalty on)
家長懲罰小孩 (parents punish children) cannot be changed to 家長懲處小孩 (parents penalize children)
懲處犯罪者 (penalize criminals) specifically refers to 'official punishment by the legal system'
懲罰犯罪者 (punish criminals) refers to 'punishment in any form'
懲處違反校規的學生 (penalize students who break school rules) specifically refers to official punishment by the school administration'
懲罰違反校規的學生 (punish students who break school rules) refers to 'punishment in any form'