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 starvationdebilitate 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 arthritisdisable suggests bringing about impairment or limitation in a physical or mental ability.
disabled by an injury sustained at work
Did you know?
Debilitate, enfeeble, undermine, and sap all share the general sense "to weaken." But while debilitate holds the distinction among these words of coming from the Latin word for "weak"—debilis—it packs a potent punch. Often used of disease or something that strikes like a disease or illness, debilitate might suggest a temporary impairment—but a pervasive one at that. Enfeeble, a very close synonym of debilitate, connotes a pitiable, but often reversible, condition of weakness and helplessness. Undermine and sap suggest a weakening by something working surreptitiously and insidiously.
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 WebTaking out the leadership of the railway would debilitate the nation’s primary transportation network and, therefore, the entire country.
Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 8 Sep. 2022 This Investigation Discovery show will delight true crime fanatics but may debilitate those with trust issues.
Briana Richert, EW.com, 11 July 2022 Burnout, if left unattended, can debilitate our mental, physical and emotional health.
J. Gerald Suarez, USA TODAY, 15 June 2022 The ministry said Moscow could be expected to continue bombarding the region from the air to debilitate Ukrainian air defenses as Russia builds up forces on the ground.
New York Times, 21 Apr. 2022 Chinese defense officials say the SJ-21 is meant to dispose of space debris, but US Space Command says the same arm can debilitate or disable rival satellites.
Khari Johnson, Wired, 15 Mar. 2022 Republicans view the Democrats’ legislative plans as an overreach of excess spending and have accused Mr. Biden of careening from one crisis to another, saying both will debilitate the party’s midterm message next year.
Ken Thomas, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 The flu does not knock you down and debilitate you like COVID-19.
Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, 8 Aug. 2021 The absence of strong copyright laws continues to debilitate Cambodian cinema.
BostonGlobe.com, 22 Apr. 2021 See More
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.