cannibalize

verb
can·​ni·​bal·​ize | \ ˈka-nə-bə-ˌlīz How to pronounce cannibalize (audio) \
cannibalized; cannibalizing

Definition of cannibalize

transitive verb

1a : to take salvageable parts from (something, such as a disabled machine) for use in building or repairing another machine
b : to make use of (a part taken from one thing) in building, repairing, or creating something else
2 : to deprive of an essential part or element in creating or sustaining another facility or enterprise the energy system has begun cannibalizing the economic system it is supposed to fuel— Barry Commoner
3 : to use or draw on material of (another writer, an earlier work, etc.) a biography that cannibalizes previous biographies
4 : to take (sales) away from an existing product by selling or being sold as a similar but new product usually from the same manufacturer also : to affect (something, such as an existing product) adversely by cannibalizing sales
5 astronomy, of a celestial object : to incorporate mass from (a nearby object) through gravitational attraction But some stellar black holes make themselves known because they exist in a binary systems as the companion to a normal star, which they are cannibalizing.— John Noble Wilford

intransitive verb

1 : to practice cannibalism
2 : to cannibalize one unit for the sake of another of the same kind

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Other Words from cannibalize

cannibalization \ ˌka-​nə-​bə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce cannibalization (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

During World War II, military personnel often used salvageable parts from disabled vehicles and aircraft to repair other vehicles and aircraft. This sacrifice of one thing for the sake of another of its kind must have reminded some folks of cannibalism by humans and animals, because the process came to be known as cannibalizing. The armed forces of this time were also known to cannibalize-that is, to take away personnel from-units to build up other units. It didn't take long for this military slang to become civilianized. Since its demobilization, the term has been used in a variety of contexts.

Examples of cannibalize in a Sentence

He cannibalized one washing machine to fix another. Many parts of the engine were cannibalized from older cars.

Recent Examples on the Web

In response to: The World Split in Two from the April 18, 2019 issue To the Editors: For book writers today, a common occupational hazard is the cannibalizing book review. Eamon Duffy, The New York Review of Books, "Feasting on Erasmus," 9 May 2019 Yet even before lawmakers approved an estimated 23,000 new gambling positions, ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ had found that video gambling has cannibalized casino revenue. Jason Grotto, ProPublica, "Illinois Is Poised to Become the Gambling Capital of the Midwest," 10 June 2019 But every hamster except for one cannibalized her second litter, and one of the surviving pups ate its siblings as soon as their mother weaned them. Ben Crair, Smithsonian, "Why Are These Hamsters Cannibalizing Their Young?," 21 Feb. 2018 According to the Navy Times, the Fitzgerald’s Voyager Management System, a navigational aid designed to assist the crew in transiting busy waters, was broken and cannibalized to keep other systems running. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Secret Probe Into USS Fitzgerald Disaster Revealed a Ship in Appalling Shape," 14 Jan. 2019 In the past, some of these movies have come out in August, but Hollywood studios are increasingly willing to release them throughout the year in an effort to avoid cannibalizing each other during the summer. Ben Fritz, WSJ, "‘Fallout’ Jumps to No. 1 at the Box Office," 29 July 2018 The remaining parts are either purchased on the open market or cannibalized from non-operational Tiger IIs, of which Iran has nearly 100. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Iran’s Aging American-Made Jets Could Fly Through the 2040s," 11 Feb. 2019 Built in Germany, the San Juan was delivered in 1984 and underwent a major refit in 2014; other subs intended to be built for the class were put on hold or cancelled, with two unfinished subs cannibalized for parts. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Doomed Argentine sub found a year after its disappearance," 19 Nov. 2018 Not only are the ships old, some have been cannibalized to keep existing ships still in the fleet running. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy Won’t Bring Back Mothballed Ships to Boost the Fleet," 21 Feb. 2019

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

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First Known Use of cannibalize

1873, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

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Statistics for cannibalize

Last Updated

2 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for cannibalize

The first known use of cannibalize was in 1873

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More Definitions for cannibalize

cannibalize

verb

English Language Learners Definition of cannibalize

: to remove parts from a machine, car, etc., to repair or build another one

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