When you want payback, are you after revenge or do you mean to avenge someone?
Avenge and vengeance have to do with justice, and often with a legal process—although an individual can take justice upon himself:
- I want to see their deaths avenged.
- He went to prison for avenging an attack on his wife.
The word avenge, though, may not have anything to do with justice but only with evening a score. Payback.
Revenge, in contrast, means to inflict suffering or harm on another out of personal resentment. Revenge is all about getting even. Payback, yes, but not specifically justice. A person can mete out revenge on someone who doesn’t deserve it. And keep in mind, avenge, doesn’t imply the infliction of harm.
Revenge can be either a noun or a verb, but avenge cannot be used as a noun.
If you want to avenge a wrong without going to jail, you may want to take legal action and not seek revenge.