de·​bil·​i·​tat·​ing di-ˈbi-lə-ˌtā-tiŋ How to pronounce debilitating (audio)
: causing serious impairment of strength or ability to function
debilitating pain
a debilitating fear of public speaking
a debilitating illness
Thirty years have passed since a vaccine wiped out polio, but some of those who conquered the debilitating disease as children are now experiencing symptoms that seem all too familiar.Fay Knicely
Several of these drugs are now in clinical testing to determine whether they can reduce or eliminate the debilitating nausea suffered by cancer patients on chemotherapy.Ron Cowen
debilitatingly adverb
Debilitatingly asthmatic as a child, Scarfe developed his talent while amusing himself and acquired the cynicism for authority that empowers his … drawings and sculpture during many frightening encounters with medical incompetence. Ray Olson

Did you know?

The verb debilitate (and its adjective form debilitating) comes from the Latin word for "weak," debilis. Often used of disease—as in, "the patient was debilitated"—it can also suggest something that strikes like a disease or illness, "the actor was debilitated by stage fright." In sum, the word suggests a temporary impairment or a condition of weakness and helplessness.

Examples of debilitating in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Exa-cel frees patients from the debilitating and painful effects of this chronic, deadly disease. Gina Kolata, New York Times, 31 Oct. 2023 But more serious cases of burns and heatstroke, when people have been on the ground for minutes or hours, can be extremely debilitating. Joshua Partlow, Anchorage Daily News, 14 July 2023 Symptoms of osteoarthritis Symptoms of the potentially debilitating condition usually develop slowly over time. Byerin Prater, Fortune Well, 23 Aug. 2023 Developing treatments that prevent neuron loss earlier in the disease’s progression may keep a Parkinson’s patient from developing its more debilitating symptoms. IEEE Spectrum, 11 July 2023 Showing vulnerability doesn’t have to mean admitting the debilitating effects trauma has had on one’s psyche, only to welcome aggressive attempts at reinvention. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 9 June 2023 Dallas is 3-2 after the team suffered a debilitating loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, 17 Oct. 2023 Kisses, sneezes, and direct contact can pass this debilitating and deadly bacteria to your newborn. Taryn Chapman, Parents, 28 Sep. 2023 Those obsessions were so debilitating, and crazy-making. Seija Rankin, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'debilitating.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1641, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of debilitating was in 1641


Dictionary Entries Near debilitating

Cite this Entry

“Debilitating.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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