dep·​re·​date ˈde-prə-ˌdāt How to pronounce depredate (audio)
depredated; depredating

transitive verb

: to lay waste : plunder, ravage

intransitive verb

: to engage in plunder
depredation noun
ˈde-prə-ˌdā-tər How to pronounce depredate (audio)
di-ˈpre-də-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce depredate (audio)

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Depredate derives primarily from the Latin verb praedari, meaning "to plunder," an ancestor to our words predator and prey. Dating to the 17th century, the word most commonly appears in contexts relating to nature and ecology, where it is often used to describe the methodical, almost automatic destruction of life. That's how the film critic Stanley Kauffman, for example, used it to summarize the plot of the famous horror movie Jaws (1975): "A killer shark depredates the beach of an island summer resort. Several people are killed. Finally, the shark is killed. That's the story."

Word History


Late Latin depraedatus, past participle of depraedari, from Latin de- + praedari to plunder — more at prey entry 2

First Known Use

1626, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of depredate was in 1626


Dictionary Entries Near depredate

Cite this Entry

“Depredate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

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