ca·​pit·​u·​late kə-ˈpi-chə-ˌlāt How to pronounce capitulate (audio)
capitulated; capitulating

intransitive verb

: to surrender often after negotiation of terms
The enemy was forced to capitulate unconditionally.
: to cease resisting : acquiesce
The company capitulated to the labor union to avoid a strike.
archaic : parley, negotiate

Did you know?

We hope you’ll acquiesce to some history about capitulate because we can’t resist. When it first entered English in the 16th century, capitulate meant “to discuss terms with an enemy; to negotiate.” Its Latin source is more bookshelf than battlefield: the Medieval Latin word capitulare means “to distinguish [text] by chapters or headings,” as well as “to stipulate in an agreement.” The original “negotiate” sense of capitulate is now rarely heard, and today capitulate typically stresses surrender, whether to agreed-upon terms or in hopelessness before an irresistible opposing force (as in “team owners capitulated to the demands of the players’ union”).

Choose the Right Synonym for capitulate

yield, submit, capitulate, succumb, relent, defer mean to give way to someone or something that one can no longer resist.

yield may apply to any sort or degree of giving way before force, argument, persuasion, or entreaty.

yields too easily in any argument

submit suggests full surrendering after resistance or conflict to the will or control of another.

a repentant sinner vowing to submit to the will of God

capitulate stresses the fact of ending all resistance and may imply either a coming to terms (as with an adversary) or hopelessness in the face of an irresistible opposing force.

officials capitulated to the protesters' demands

succumb implies weakness and helplessness to the one that gives way or an overwhelming power to the opposing force.

a stage actor succumbing to the lure of Hollywood

relent implies a yielding through pity or mercy by one who holds the upper hand.

finally relented and let the children stay up late

defer implies a voluntary yielding or submitting out of respect or reverence for or deference and affection toward another.

I defer to your expertise in these matters

Examples of capitulate in a Sentence

The country still refuses to capitulate despite its weakening army and dwindling resources. The teacher refused to capitulate: no calculators were to be used during the exam.
Recent Examples on the Web Why has the classical-music world capitulated en masse to a relative novice? Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2024 Is Nico Greetham, as Marcos, someone who’s worth these modern-day Capulets capitulating? Chris Willman, Variety, 24 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for capitulate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'capitulate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Medieval Latin capitulatus, past participle of capitulare to distinguish by heads or chapters, from Late Latin capitulum — see capitulary

First Known Use

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of capitulate was in 1596


Dictionary Entries Near capitulate

Cite this Entry

“Capitulate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ca·​pit·​u·​late kə-ˈpich-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce capitulate (audio)
capitulated; capitulating
: to surrender usually on terms agreed upon in advance

More from Merriam-Webster on capitulate

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