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

Other Words from defeat


defeatable \ di-​ˈfē-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce defeat (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 But whether Moy can find enough of them to defeat Good at the 5th Congressional District GOP convention this month is questionable. Washington Post, 8 May 2022 New Orleans, though, mounted the final comeback of the game to defeat the Clippers 105-101 on Friday night at Arena. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 15 Apr. 2022 Women’s soccer celebrated a milestone Wednesday when a world-record crowd of more than 91,000 people watched Barcelona defeat Real Madrid 5-2 in the Champions League at the Camp Nou Stadium. San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Mar. 2022 In a battle for pole position in the District 28-6A race, Reagan rode an eight-run fifth inning to defeat Johnson 14-5 Friday night at North East Stadium. Zach Mason, San Antonio Express-News, 18 Mar. 2022 During her second appearance in the Tournament of Champions last January, Korda drained a 25-foot birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Danielle King at Orlando’s Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club. Edgar Thompson,, 18 Jan. 2022 Auburn had four players score at least 10 points to defeat Florida 85-73 Saturday night at Auburn Arena. al, 8 Jan. 2022 Amazon, meanwhile, was able to defeat a unionization drive at one of its warehouses in Alabama that had the vocal support of many Democratic leaders—even President Biden. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, 30 Dec. 2021 But the system has less than 50 missiles and could credibly defeat an incoming attack of ten missiles or less at best. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 29 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Conservatives shouldn't demand that those on the losing side of the Dobbs decision accept their defeat gladly. Damon Linker, The Week, 13 May 2022 The panel is investigating McCarthy's conversations with then-President Donald Trump the day of the attack and meetings the four other lawmakers had with the White House beforehand as Trump and his aides worked to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 13 May 2022 Sweden has avoided military alliances for more than 200 years, while Finland adopted neutrality after its defeat by the Soviets in World War II. Oleksandr Stashevskyi, Chicago Tribune, 12 May 2022 His defeat is the first time a candidate endorsed by the former president in the Republican Party primaries has lost during 2022. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, 11 May 2022 After her defeat, Osaka addressed the crowd while wiping away tears. SELF, 8 May 2022 In a continuing theme, the offense couldn’t sustain anything again in a 3-2 loss at Fenway Park as the Red Sox were swept by the White Sox and fell to their fifth consecutive defeat. Steve Hewitt, Hartford Courant, 8 May 2022 Samarzich will add in a longshot wager on 20/1 Simplification, believing bettors should cast aside consideration of its defeat the last time out. Lance Pugmire, USA TODAY, 7 May 2022 Western officials believe Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine on May 9, the day when Russia commemorates its defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Katya Soldak, Forbes, 4 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defeat.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for defeat


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


transitive verb

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

More from Merriam-Webster on defeat

Nglish: Translation of defeat for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defeat for Arabic Speakers


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