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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Washington also defeated Green Bay 42-24 back in 2016. Chris Wassel, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers odds, picks and best bets," 6 Dec. 2019 For example, in 2016 Google's DeepMind’s A.I. system defeated leading human players in the ancient board game Go. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Facebook’s A.I. Masters the Card Game Hanabi," 6 Dec. 2019 After years of the type of work a man with a fifth-grade education does to make a living, Hughes’ body has been defeated., "Hidden in plain sight," 5 Dec. 2019 Philip defeated them, drove off several claimants to the throne, but many enemies still threatened. National Geographic, "Alexander the Great's warrior mom wielded unprecedented power," 3 Dec. 2019 In late September, the Lancers defeated the host Mustangs 41-34. Dan Albano, Orange County Register, "Football roundup: Cypress, Hurtado rally on the road to stun Ventura in quarterfinals," 16 Nov. 2019 Johnson still vividly recalls how Ross and his unusual strategies helped defeat Applewhite, costing the city at least $40 million. San Antonio Express-News, "November 7, 2019," 7 Nov. 2019 Gavin Newsom became governor in 2019, having defeated the more charter-friendly Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, and ending over twenty-five years of unmitigated gubernatorial support for charter schools. Andrea Gabor, Harper's magazine, "The K-12 Takeover," 28 Oct. 2019 La Cañada lost to San Marino, 42-27; Monrovia defeated South Pasadena, 49-7 •OUTLOOK: La Cañada, ranked No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division XIV, took a step back in suffering its first league game of the season. Jeff Tully, La Cañada Valley Sun, "Weekly Football Previews: La Cañada vs. Monrovia; St. Francis vs. Salesian; Flintridge Prep vs. Milken Comm.," 22 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun While Republicans easily won all the down-ballot races for statewide offices, Bevin’s defeat showed that even the GOP’s dominance in the bluegrass state has limits. Washington Post, "Kentucky’s outgoing GOP governor leaving with parting shots," 6 Dec. 2019 The Democrats had a reasonable reply in ascribing that state of incompletion to the White House’s stonewalling; but there is a whole raft of lawsuits underway on that issue which are beginning to yield defeats for the President. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, "What the Law Professors Brought to the Trump Impeachment Hearings," 5 Dec. 2019 Irritation with the high-handed manner of the party leadership also contributed to Mr Scholz’s defeat, says Wiebke Esdar, one of the few SPD MPs who backed the winning duo. The Economist, "Under new management Germany’s Social Democrats pick new leaders," 5 Dec. 2019 Really an extraordinary story of resilience in the face of what ought to feel like defeat. CBS News, "Transcript: Admiral James Stavridis talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 4 Dec. 2019 Doug Marrone, Jaguars — Owner Shad Khan put his leadership group on notice after last year's 5-11 campaign, and the discord and defeats have followed the organization into 2019. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, "NFL coach hot seat rankings: Who could be next to be fired after Ron Rivera?," 4 Dec. 2019 And Kemp is keenly aware that a single tweet from the president could be the difference between victory and defeat for Loeffler. Author: Ben Nadler And Andrew Taylor, Anchorage Daily News, "Kemp expected to pick newcomer to succeed Isakson in Senate," 3 Dec. 2019 There was no Omaha Beach, no Vicksburg Campaign, not even an Alamo to signal a clear defeat. Cian O'driscoll, Quartz, "The myth of victory in modern warfare," 2 Dec. 2019 Strake Jesuit handed Beaumont West Brook a 63-35 defeat in the area playoffs, avenging a regular season loss as well as last year’s postseason meeting. Jack Marrion, Houston Chronicle, "Strake Jesuit football completes second straight 10-win season," 2 Dec. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for defeat

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for defeat

Last Updated

9 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Defeat.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

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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

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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).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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