de·​feat | \ di-ˈfēt How to pronounce defeat (audio) , dē- \
defeated; defeating; defeats

Definition of defeat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to win victory over : beat defeated their archrivals in the championship game The bill was defeated in the Senate.
2a : frustrate sense 2a(1) defeat a hope
b law : nullify defeat an estate
3 obsolete : destroy … his unkindness may defeat my life …— Shakespeare



Definition of defeat (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : frustration by nullification or by prevention of success The bill suffered defeat in the Senate.
2a : an overthrow especially of an army in battle celebrate their defeat of the enemy
b : the loss of a contest his first defeat as a professional boxer
3 obsolete : destruction … upon whose property and most dear life a damned defeat was made.— Shakespeare

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from defeat


defeatable \ di-​ˈfē-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce defeatable (audio) , dē-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for defeat


conquer, vanquish, defeat, subdue, reduce, overcome, overthrow mean to get the better of by force or strategy. conquer implies gaining mastery of. Caesar conquered Gaul vanquish implies a complete overpowering. vanquished the enemy and ended the war defeat does not imply the finality or completeness of vanquish which it otherwise equals. the Confederates defeated the Union forces at Manassas subdue implies a defeating and suppression. subdued the native tribes after years of fighting reduce implies a forcing to capitulate or surrender. the city was reduced after a month-long siege overcome suggests getting the better of with difficulty or after hard struggle. overcame a host of bureaucratic roadblocks overthrow stresses the bringing down or destruction of existing power. violently overthrew the old regime

Examples of defeat in a Sentence

Verb We must be ready to defeat our enemies in battle. Our candidate defeated him in the last election. She finally found a solution to a problem that had defeated many other researchers. The bill was defeated in the state senate. Scientists from around the world are working to defeat the disease. Noun We weren't prepared for defeat. One small error could make the difference between success and defeat. After several tries we were forced to accept defeat. They celebrated their defeat of the enemy.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There was no claim of responsibility by the Islamic State, which was largely defeated in Iraq in 2017 but still maintains sleeper cells to target Iraqi forces. Washington Post, "World Digest: April 28, 2020," 28 Apr. 2020 Both were active when barriers were installed in large numbers in 1975 and when citizen initiatives to remove them were defeated in 1976 and 1977. John King,, "During coronavirus crisis, traffic restricted on some local streets. Berkeley’s done it for years," 24 Apr. 2020 Instead, her final game in a Ducks uniform came on March 8, when Oregon defeated Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game 89-56. Jill Martin, CNN, "Sabrina Ionescu selected No. 1 by New York Liberty in WNBA draft, while Gianna Bryant is an honorary pick," 17 Apr. 2020 The man who defeated Clinton in the electoral college, Trump, also commented after Warren's exit. Libby Cathey, ABC News, "Little girls will have to wait 4 more years, Warren says, as 2020 race loses viable female candidates," 7 Mar. 2020 The seat has traditionally been held by a Republican but is currently occupied by Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who defeated Herrell in the 2018 midterm elections. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "New Mexico GOP House race gets heated after candidate accuses opponent of spreading 'despicable, untrue' infidelity rumors," 5 May 2020 Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula is carried off the field after defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII at the Coliseum in January 1973 to complete a 17-0 season. Mike Kupper, Los Angeles Times, "Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time leader in coaching wins, dies at 90," 4 May 2020 Turnberry has hosted the British Open four times, the last in 2009, when Stewart Cink defeated Tom Watson in a playoff. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Donald Trump praises Turnberry's No. 1 ranking among golf courses in Great Britain, Ireland," 3 May 2020 The group’s political action committee gave Pikl a total of $25,000 in his two campaigns and supported Ryan, who defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Jason Villalba for his Dallas-area Texas House seat in 2018, to the tune of $30,000. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "The politics of protest: Organizers of anti-shutdown rallies in North Texas say efforts are homegrown," 24 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Such a defeat could risk the Senate's balance of power, with the chamber's composition of 53 seats for the GOP and 47 for the Democratic and independent caucus likely to change. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Republicans fearful they could lose a Kansas Senate seat for the first time since 1932," 24 May 2020 In that moment, he was forced to revisit his most disturbing episodes of the last two years — a 62-39 defeat in 2018 and a 56-27 loss in November that reinforced the perception that Michigan’s greatest rival now dominates the Wolverines. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Ohio State still the ghost that haunts Michigan football," 22 May 2020 President Donald Trump is headed for a historic defeat, according to a new election model released by an organization with a strong track record of predicting presidential elections. Tim Darnell, ajc, "Trump to lose in a landslide, new election model predicts," 21 May 2020 Fagan, who in 2018 accomplished a rare defeat of an incumbent senator, Rod Monroe, over his anti-renter-protection stance. oregonlive, "State Sen. Shemia Fagan wins Democratic primary for Oregon secretary of state," 21 May 2020 A few weeks past his 40th birthday, Duncan went down swinging in a 113-99 defeat against the Thunder. Jeff Mcdonald,, "Top 10 Spurs moments: No. 2 — So long to a legend," 16 May 2020 Aaron Harrison drained a crushing three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left to give Kentucky the lead, and when Traevon Jackson's attempt at the other end bounced out, the Badgers were left pondering a gut-wrenching defeat. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "50 in 50: Wisconsin takes down undefeated Kentucky in 2015 Final Four," 15 May 2020 But a defeat in Emilia Romagna would be particularly hard to swallow for the Democrats, who might then begin rethinking whether their governing alliance with Five Star is really worth it. Alessandro Speciale,, "Italy Regions Vote in Test of Salvini Surge: Election Day Guide," 10 May 2020 What can seem a collective defeat in one context can seem a triumph in another. Thomas Chatterton Williams, Harper's Magazine, "The Wanderer’s Port," 30 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defeat.' 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 defeat


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for defeat


Middle English defeten, defaiten "to ruin, destroy, nullify," in part verbal derivative of defet "disfigured, null and void (in law)," borrowed from Anglo-French defait, defet, desfet, past participle of defaire, desfaire "to undo, put an end to, destroy, nullify," from de-, des- de- + faire "to do, make," going back to Latin facere; in part borrowed from Anglo-French defeter, derivative of defet — more at fact


in part noun derivative of defeat entry 1, in part borrowed from Middle French defaite, noun derivative from feminine of defait, past participle of defaire, desfaire "to undo, destroy, kill" — more at defeat entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about defeat

Time Traveler for defeat

Time Traveler

The first known use of defeat was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for defeat

Last Updated

12 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defeat.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for defeat


How to pronounce defeat (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of defeat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to win a victory over (someone or something) in a war, contest, game, etc.
: to cause (someone or something) to fail
: to control or overcome (something)



English Language Learners Definition of defeat (Entry 2 of 2)

: failure to succeed or to win
: the act of winning a victory over someone or something


de·​feat | \ di-ˈfēt How to pronounce defeat (audio) \
defeated; defeating

Kids Definition of defeat

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to win victory over The champs defeated their rivals handily.
2 : to cause to fail or be destroyed The bill was defeated in Congress.



Kids Definition of defeat (Entry 2 of 2)

: loss of a contest or battle

Legal Definition of defeat

1a : to render null third parties will defeat an attached but “unperfected” security interest— J. J. White and R. S. Summers
b : to prevent or undo the effectiveness or establishment of defeat jurisdiction defendant took stand and defeated intoxication defenseNational Law Journal
2a : to prevail over
b : to thwart the claim of defeat creditors an intent to defeat the surviving spouse of his…elective shareTennessee Code Annotated

Other Words from defeat

defeat noun

History and Etymology for defeat

Anglo-French defait, past participle of defaire to undo, defeat, from Old French deffaire desfaire, from de-, prefix marking reversal of action + faire to do

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on defeat

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for defeat

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defeat

Spanish Central: Translation of defeat

Nglish: Translation of defeat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defeat for Arabic Speakers

Comments on defeat

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
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!