de·​bil·​i·​tate | \di-ˈbi-lə-ˌtāt, dē-\
debilitated; debilitating

Definition of debilitate 

transitive verb

: to impair the strength of : enfeeble sailors debilitated by scurvy an economy debilitated by years of civil war

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Other Words from debilitate

debilitation \-​ˌbi-​lə-​ˈtā-​shən \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for debilitate

weaken, enfeeble, debilitate, undermine, sap, cripple, disable mean to lose or cause to lose strength or vigor. weaken may imply loss of physical strength, health, soundness, or stability or of quality, intensity, or effective power. a disease that weakens the body's defenses enfeeble implies a condition of marked weakness and helplessness. enfeebled by starvation debilitate suggests a less marked or more temporary impairment of strength or vitality. the debilitating effects of surgery undermine and sap suggest a weakening by something working surreptitiously and insidiously. a poor diet undermines your health drugs had sapped his ability to think cripple implies causing a serious loss of functioning power through damaging or removing an essential part or element. crippled by arthritis disable suggests bringing about impairment or limitation in a physical or mental ability. disabled by an injury sustained at work

Examples of debilitate in a Sentence

The virus debilitates the body's immune system. the heart surgery debilitated the college athlete beyond his worst fears

Recent Examples on the Web

The queen, who suffered from debilitating gout and severe depression, spends most of her time in a simple nightgown. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Though They Look Regal, Sandy Powell’s Costumes for The Favourite Are Grounded in Reality," 20 Nov. 2018 Of the 50 percent who don’t die, 50 percent are severely debilitated in some way or another. Emily Carter Roiphe, Longreads, "The Hotel of Multiple Realities," 22 Feb. 2018 The crime wave has seriously debilitated political stability and internal security, as each criminal syndicate attempts to use the government to protect its business and ensure its longevity. Javid Ahmad, WSJ, "The Mafia That Threatens Afghanistan," 19 Sep. 2018 American ships, airplanes, combat vehicles, satellites and other systems have design flaws that leave them vulnerable to debilitating cyberattacks. Brian E. Finch, WSJ, "The American Arsenal Is Vulnerable to Cyberattacks," 15 Oct. 2018 Indeed, studies show that an optimistic approach blunts reactivity to stress, curbing the outpouring of hormones that can debilitate body and mind. Hara Estroff Marano, New York Times, "What Does It Take to Overcome Adversity?," 12 Jan. 2018 It was addressed to her daughter, Ava, but Olsen opened it and scanned the letter first to make sure the message didn’t include anything that might trigger her second-grader’s debilitating anxiety. John Woodrow Cox, Washington Post, "‘Please keep kids safe from guns’: How Trump replied to a 7-year-old’s anguished letter," 4 Feb. 2018 For many, its debilitating pain prevents sleep and requires medication. Lynn Peterson Mobley, Washington Post, "My athletic husband stumbled. He was tired. He had a disease we’d never heard of.," 8 July 2018 Doctors have long observed that many pancreatic cancer patients experience debilitating tissue wasting. Justin Chen, STAT, "Muscle and fat loss may offer clues to pancreatic cancer’s deadly ways," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'debilitate.' 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 debilitate

1533, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for debilitate

Latin debilitatus, past participle of debilitare to weaken, from debilis weak

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Statistics for debilitate

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for debilitate

The first known use of debilitate was in 1533

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More Definitions for debilitate



English Language Learners Definition of debilitate

: to make (someone or something) weak : to reduce the strength of (someone or something)


de·​bil·​i·​tate | \di-ˈbi-lə-ˌtāt \
debilitated; debilitating

Kids Definition of debilitate

: to make feeble : weaken a debilitating disease


transitive verb
de·​bil·​i·​tate | \di-ˈbil-ə-ˌtāt \
debilitated; debilitating

Medical Definition of debilitate 

: to impair the strength of a body debilitated by disease

Other Words from debilitate

debilitation \-​ˌbil-​ə-​ˈtā-​shən \ noun

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Comments on debilitate

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a nest or breeding place

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