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

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Other Words from debilitate

debilitation \ di-​ˌbi-​lə-​ˈtā-​shən How to pronounce debilitation (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

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 illness is believed to be an immunological response to chemicals in implants, with common symptoms including mental confusion, blurry vision, debilitating joint and muscular pain, chronic fatigue, and hair loss. Lacey Johnson, Marie Claire, "Breast Implant Illness Is a Risk We Don't Talk About," 25 June 2019 Kopp told the arresting officers that King had been in debilitating pain, but the police were aware of a number of incidents at the house in the preceding three years, including gunfire and accusations of domestic violence. Ann Neumann, Harper's magazine, "Going to Extremes," 10 June 2019 The precision bolt offers enough of a momentum freeze to focus and debilitate this foe, then whiz around and bludgeon other enemies with standard machine gun fire before returning to focused, limb-stripping sniper rounds. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "DOOM Eternal gameplay world premiere: Devil horns in the air—literally," 9 June 2019 But the mistakes were numerous, and debilitating in their cumulative effect. Hal Brands, National Review, "Lessons from the Iraq War," 20 June 2019 The same day Shukla was presenting his idea onstage, President Trump was signing a bipartisan package of measures to address the country’s debilitating opioid problem. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Sorrento Valley startup raises $3M following pitch competition win — all from local investors," 18 June 2019 He hasn’t qualified for the Open since then, in part because of lingering, debilitating back problems. Ron Kroichick,, "Justin Thomas, healthy again, jumps back into the fray at Pebble Beach," 10 June 2019 One patient was Henry Molaison, a 24-year-old from Connecticut who suffered from debilitating epilepsy. Susan Pinker, WSJ, "An Unforgettable Memory Expert Muses at 100," 23 Aug. 2018 During an interview with the Associated Press, Morse’s parents, Michael and Khadeeja, said that their son, who suffers from debilitating mental illness, has been repeatedly hospitalized, refused to take his medication and ranted on social media. Deanna Paul, Washington Post, "A man said he was going to kill someone — then mowed down a family riding bikes, police say," 25 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

11 Jul 2019

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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

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


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 debilitation (audio) \ noun

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Comments on debilitate

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