alien·​ate ˈā-lē-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce alienate (audio)
alienated; alienating

transitive verb

: to cause to be estranged : to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent especially where attachment formerly existed
He alienated most of his colleagues with his bad temper.
Her position on this issue has alienated many former supporters.
: to convey or transfer (something, such as property or a right) usually by a specific act rather than the due course of law
: to cause to be withdrawn or diverted
alienate capital from its natural channels
alienator noun
Choose the Right Synonym for alienate

estrange, alienate, disaffect mean to cause one to break a bond of affection or loyalty.

estrange implies the development of indifference or hostility with consequent separation or divorcement.

his estranged wife

alienate may or may not suggest separation but always implies loss of affection or interest.

managed to alienate all his coworkers

disaffect refers especially to those from whom loyalty is expected and stresses the effects (such as rebellion or discontent) of alienation without actual separation.

troops disaffected by hunger

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Surely DeSantis doesn’t want to alienate Trump’s fervent, though possibly shrinking, fan base. Manuel Roig-franzia, Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2023 For workplaces that promote themselves as equitable and progressive, reluctance to share pay data can alienate employees and jobseekers, said Tauseef Rahman, a partner at consultancy Mercer who has studied the evolution of pay transparency. Dallas News, 8 Nov. 2022 Of course, that works both ways: Music used well can generate positive goodwill, but a poor musical choice can quickly alienate consumers. Isabel Rafferty, Forbes, 9 Sep. 2021 House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is struggling to cobble together the 218 votes needed to become speaker and can’t afford to alienate the hard-right wing, was likewise restrained. Dallas News, 6 Dec. 2022 That could alienate him from the 23% of voters who are registered as having no party preference. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Aug. 2022 Unfortunately, calling your teen's relationship into question may serve to alienate them. Stephanie H. Murray, The Week, 16 Aug. 2022 The company has good reason not to alienate Mr. Weisselberg. William K. Rashbaum, New York Times, 10 Jan. 2023 Pollster Lee Carter, who conducted the survey through her company Maslansky + Partners, noted that voters across the board felt Kemp held his own and did not alienate voters, but also did nothing to inspire. Nikolas Lanum, Fox News, 7 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alienate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from Latin aliēnātus, past participle of aliēnāre "to transfer (goods, property) to another, lose possession of, render hostile, estrange," verbal derivative of aliēnus "not one's own, of others, foreign, strange" — more at alien entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of alienate was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near alienate

Cite this Entry

“Alienate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


alien·​ate ˈā-lē-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce alienate (audio)
alienated; alienating
: to transfer (as a title, property, or right) to another
: to cause (one who used to be friendly or loyal) to become unfriendly or disloyal

Medical Definition


transitive verb
alienated; alienating
: to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent where attachment formerly existed

Legal Definition


transitive verb
alien·​ate ˈā-lē-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce alienate (audio)
alienated; alienating
: to give away or sell (property or a property right) to another
will not sell, transfer, assign, hypothecate or otherwise alienate any of his voting sharesStrickland v. Rahaim, 549 So. 2d 58 (1989)
compare devise

Latin alienare, from alienus not one's own

More from Merriam-Webster on alienate

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