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

Keep scrolling for more

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 suicide came after years of debilitating back pain and taking a promising new drug that unfortunately listed suicidal thoughts as a side effect. John Goodspeed,, "Fishing camp for grieving kids helps hurting little hearts," 22 Aug. 2019 Children experience debilitating fear, anxiety, and depression around anticipatory terror. Diana Bray, The Denver Post, "Diana Bray: We must deal with the trauma of these mass shootings, too," 4 Sep. 2019 This is debilitating for businesses and for consumers. Washington Post, "Trump’s latest tariffs come at the worst possible time for shoppers: Holiday season," 3 Aug. 2019 Event’ Officials are said to be monitoring the beaches on Friday to ensure the whales — one or two of which may be debilitated by the previous stranding — don’t strand themselves again. Kelli Bender,, "5 Whales Die After Stranding Themselves on Hawaii Beach with 5 Other Whales," 30 Aug. 2019 Even if they were released, would the scars of imprisonment debilitate them? Missy Ryan, Washington Post, "‘No one just goes hiking in Afghanistan’: American woman gave birth as a Taliban hostage. Now she seeks to end her mystery.," 23 Aug. 2019 For the millions of Americans who suffer from PTSD, though, the memories of the event have debilitated them. Jordan Wilkerson, Dallas News, "UTD lab's marketing challenge: Recruit veterans for PTSD study," 15 Aug. 2019 This experiment may help researchers figure out how mutations in multiple genes lead to debilitating human illnesses. Quanta Magazine, "The Cell’s Backup Genetic Instructions," 28 Oct. 2016 Get our daily newsletter Tajikistan is the poorest of the Central Asian states, lacking the natural resources of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and has been further debilitated by civil war. The Economist, "But their new partnership makes China a lot more equal than Russia," 25 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about debilitate

Listen to Our Podcast about debilitate

Statistics for debilitate

Last Updated

3 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for debilitate

The first known use of debilitate was in 1533

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on debilitate

What made you want to look up debilitate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to fake an opponent out of position

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!