verb dev·as·tate \ ˈde-və-ˌstāt \
|Updated on: 21 Aug 2018

Definition of devastate

devastated; devastating
1 : to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action
  • a country devastated by war
  • The typhoon devastated the island.
2 : to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness : overwhelm
  • devastated by grief
  • Her wisecrack devastated the class.


play \-ˌstā-tiŋ-lē\ adverb


play \ˌde-və-ˈstā-shən\ noun


play \ˈde-və-ˌstā-tiv\ adjective


play \-ˌstā-tər\ noun

Examples of devastate in a Sentence

  1. The flood devastated the town.

  2. The disease has devastated the area's oak tree population.

  3. The hurricane left the island completely devastated.

Recent Examples of devastate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'devastate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of devastate

Latin devastatus, past participle of devastare, from de- + vastare to lay waste — more at waste

Synonym Discussion of devastate

ravage, devastate, waste, sack, pillage, despoil mean to lay waste by plundering or destroying. ravage implies violent often cumulative depredation and destruction.
    • a hurricane ravaged the coast
devastate implies the complete ruin and desolation of a wide area.
    • an earthquake devastated the city
waste may imply producing the same result by a slow process rather than sudden and violent action.
    • years of drought had wasted the area
sack implies carrying off all valuable possessions from a place.
    • barbarians sacked ancient Rome
pillage implies ruthless plundering at will but without the completeness suggested by sack.
    • settlements pillaged by Vikings
despoil applies to looting or robbing without suggesting accompanying destruction.
    • the Nazis despoiled the art museums

DEVASTATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of devastate for English Language Learners

  • : to destroy much or most of (something) : to cause great damage or harm to (something)

  • : to cause (someone) to feel extreme emotional pain

DEVASTATE Defined for Kids


verb dev·as·tate \ ˈde-və-ˌstāt \

Definition of devastate for Students

devastated; devastating
1 : to destroy entirely or nearly entirely
  • The forest was devastated by fire.
2 : to cause to suffer emotionally He was devastated by the loss.

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resembling the blue of the sky

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