dev·​as·​tate ˈde-və-ˌstāt How to pronounce devastate (audio)
devastated; devastating

transitive verb

: to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action
a country devastated by war
The typhoon devastated the island.
: to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness : overwhelm
devastated by grief
Her wisecrack devastated the class.
devastation noun
devastative adjective
devastator noun
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of devastate in a Sentence

The flood devastated the town. The disease has devastated the area's oak tree population. The hurricane left the island completely devastated.
Recent Examples on the Web According to the teenagers, identified in court documents as Charles C. and Daniel D., the combination of a lack of air conditioning during a severe heat wave and days-long stretches in solitary confinement devastated their mental health. María Luisa Paúl, Washington Post, 11 Sep. 2023 Inevitably, people are attempting industrial farming, and mountain vistas are being devastated as caterpillars are collected to sell to fungus breeders. Longreads, 8 Sep. 2023 Hurricane Katrina has devastated much of the Gulf Coast. John Paul Brammer, SELF, 7 Sep. 2023 Without this preparation, I’d be totally wrecked by his passing; with his help, I’ll still be devastated, but more able to carry on alone. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 6 Sep. 2023 After typhoon Odette devastated her family home, Brandan sent Mary $70,000 dollars to build a new house. Esther Kang, Peoplemag, 5 Sep. 2023 Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, who has a home on Hawaiian island of Maui, wants vacationers to return to Maui to help the island's economy -- devastated by wildfires last month -- recover. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 5 Sep. 2023 Three weeks after the fire devastated Maui's historic seaside community of Lahaina, the count of the dead stands at 115. CBS News, 30 Aug. 2023 The fire broke out about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, devastating four empty buildings on the 600 block of Live Oak Street, which converts into U.S. 60, according to Rivera. Jose R. Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic, 27 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'devastate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of devastate was in 1638

Dictionary Entries Near devastate

Cite this Entry

“Devastate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


dev·​as·​tate ˈdev-ə-ˌstāt How to pronounce devastate (audio)
devastated; devastating
: to reduce to ruin : lay waste
: overwhelm sense 2, overpower
devastated by grief
devastatingly adverb
devastation noun

More from Merriam-Webster on devastate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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