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 Aggressiveness can be determined based on their speed, attackers pursuing prey, cannibalizing male spiders as well as eggs and their vulnerability to the invasion of predatory spiders. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Hurricanes lead to more aggressive spiders, study says," 19 Aug. 2019 But, says Henkes, at some point delivery cannibalizes existing restaurants. Author: Laura Reiley, Anchorage Daily News, "We’ve just lived through the greatest period of restaurant growth in U.S. history. Here’s why it’s ending.," 22 July 2019 But, says Henkes, at some point delivery cannibalizes existing restaurants. Laura Reiley, Washington Post, "A new book explains the sudden death of the golden age of dining out in America," 9 July 2019 Some residents said the neighborhood doesn’t need any more retail and that the new shops would cannibalize the businesses in Laurel Village, which has several vacant storefronts. J.k. Dineen, SFChronicle.com, "Huge housing and retail redevelopment of UCSF’s Laurel Heights campus gets key SF approval," 6 Sep. 2019 This group is likely to cannibalize itself and distribute stats so evenly that none will be close to an exceptional IDP option. Matt De Lima, SI.com, "Fantasy Football: The Invaluable Three-Down Linebacker on Each Team's Roster," 17 Aug. 2019 Retailers that introduce secondhand clothes could run the risk of cannibalizing their sales of new clothing. Marc Bain, Quartzy, "ThredUp is helping big stores sell recycled clothes," 21 Aug. 2019 Sooner or later Disney will run out of its own movies to cannibalize. Cicero Estrella, The Mercury News, "Disney to ‘reimagine’ ‘Home Alone’ — will we see a kinder, gentler Kevin?," 7 Aug. 2019 But, says Henkes, at some point delivery cannibalizes existing restaurants. Author: Laura Reiley, Anchorage Daily News, "We’ve just lived through the greatest period of restaurant growth in U.S. history. Here’s why it’s ending.," 22 July 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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Last Updated

22 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for cannibalize

The first known use of cannibalize was in 1873

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More Definitions for cannibalize

cannibalize

verb
How to pronounce cannibalize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cannibalize

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

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