de·​bil·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈbi-lə-ˌtāt How to pronounce debilitate (audio) , 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

Other Words from debilitate

debilitation \ di-​ˌbi-​lə-​ˈtā-​shən How to pronounce debilitate (audio) , dē-​ \ 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

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 Web Taking 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,, 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., 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.

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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The first known use of debilitate was in 1533

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Debilitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for debilitate


de·​bil·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈbi-lə-ˌtāt How to pronounce debilitate (audio) \
debilitated; debilitating

Kids Definition of debilitate

: to make feeble : weaken a debilitating disease


transitive verb
de·​bil·​i·​tate | \ di-ˈbil-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce debilitate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce debilitate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on debilitate

Nglish: Translation of debilitate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debilitate for Arabic Speakers


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