This word can have contradictory meanings and, as such, care should be taken as to its use.
1. As a verb it can mean to penalize and, as a noun, penalty, intended to ensure compliance:“One of the sanctions available to the European Commission for an infringement of EU rules is the imposition of fines.”
Within this meaning, sanctions (in the plural) can also be a punitive or coercive measure adopted by a country or group of countries acting together against a country in violation of international law: “The UN imposed economic sanctions on Iraq as punishment for its invasion of Kuwait.”
2. It can also mean as a verb, to approve and, as a noun, approval: “The board of directors sanctioned the acquisition of the property.”