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

Other Words from cannibalize

cannibalization \ ˌka-​nə-​bə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce cannibalize (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 These three inputs cannibalize each other constantly. Greg Story, Forbes, 4 May 2022 But the shift seemed to merely cannibalize Black Friday sales, with big crowds showing up for doorbuster deals on Thanksgiving. Anne D'innocenzio, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 Nov. 2021 Its shares fell 28% yesterday after analysts and investors expressed concerns that the online retailer’s new service—online shopping—might cannibalize its core business of personalized subscription boxes. Claire Zillman, Fortune, 9 Dec. 2021 His campaign team held discussions before the announcement about how to limit the funds that less scrupulous actors might try to cannibalize. New York Times, 26 Nov. 2021 No, our objective is not to cannibalize any existing business for the brands or their auction partners. Joseph V Micallef, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2021 They have been known to cannibalize one another, with the young being more vulnerable. Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2021 But the shift seemed to merely cannibalize Black Friday sales. Anne D'innocenzio, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Nov. 2021 This weekend, the Big 10 and Big 12 will cannibalize their own. Paul Daugherty, The Enquirer, 25 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of cannibalize

1873, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Learn More About cannibalize

Time Traveler for cannibalize

Time Traveler

The first known use of cannibalize was in 1873

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About cannibalize

Dictionary Entries Near cannibalize

cannibality

cannibalize

cannibally

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for cannibalize

Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cannibalize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cannibalize. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!