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?

Capitulate and its synonyms yield, submit, and succumb all mean to give way to someone or something, but have a few slight differences in emphasis. Yield may apply to any sort or degree of bowing to force, debate, or pleading ("yields too easily in any argument"). Submit suggests surrender, after resistance, to the will or control of another ("the soldiers submitted to their captors"). Succumb imputes weakness and helplessness to the person giving in, or an overwhelming power to the opposition ("succumbing to temptation"). Capitulate stresses the termination of all resistance and may imply either a coming to terms, as with an adversary, or hopelessness before an irresistible opposing force ("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 Fortunately, a raging confidence kept him from capitulating. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep. 2023 American Fiction addresses much of it — from Monk’s middle-class upbringing and disdain for popular fiction to the moral valence of capitulating to market forces — with wit and eagerness. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Sep. 2023 By raising interest rates, the Federal Reserve, America's central bank, is hoping to make things so expensive that businesses and consumers capitulate and reduce their spending. Rob Wile, NBC News, 10 Aug. 2023 Many scholars of African American history and parents and teachers have wanted this AP course for a very long time, and the College Board sort of capitulated and put it together after the 2020 protests. Kaitlyn Greenidge, Harper's BAZAAR, 22 June 2023 Nordstrom closed the doors on its five-story, 312,000-square-foot store Sunday for the last time ever, the latest retailer to capitulate to rising crime and lower foot traffic. Bychris Morris, Fortune, 28 Aug. 2023 When a dancer hired their own attorney, the producers capitulated to their claims. Vulture, 23 Aug. 2023 The Spanish federation refused to capitulate, and only three of those national-team players are on this World Cup team. Sean Gregory, Time, 22 July 2023 At the outbreak of Russia’s invasion last year, many Western experts and most Western governments mistakenly assumed that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days, that Ukrainians would not fight, and that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would flee or capitulate. Samuel Charap, Foreign Affairs, 13 July 2023 See More

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 30 Sep. 2023.

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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