dev·​as·​tate | \ˈde-və-ˌstāt \
devastated; devastating

Definition of devastate 

transitive verb

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.

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Other Words from devastate

devastatingly \-​ˌstā-​tiŋ-​lē \ adverb
devastation \ˌde-​və-​ˈstā-​shən \ noun
devastative \ˈde-​və-​ˌstā-​tiv \ adjective
devastator \-​ˌstā-​tər \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

As of Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the inferno devastated the town of Paradise and surrounding areas, the number of confirmed dead stood at 81, and the sheriff’s list of those unaccounted for had about 700 names. Kathleen Ronayne, The Seattle Times, "‘We need hundreds’: Fire victims’ families urged to give DNA," 21 Nov. 2018 Flooding continues to be a problem in the Carolinas nearly two weeks after Hurricane Florence devastated the area. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: Kavanaugh, Ford face the hot seat in Supreme battle; Kavanaugh a victim of mistaken identity?," 28 Sep. 2018 Their work has never felt more urgent than over the past nine months, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and exposed the island's vulnerability to natural disasters and severe lack of homegrown food. Nicole Acevedo /, NBC News, "'The push we needed': Puerto Rico's local farmers step up efforts after Hurricane Maria," 6 July 2018 An influx of Puerto Ricans to Florida began in 2010 and intensified since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. Anthony Man,, "Poll of Puerto Ricans in Florida has good news for Dems — and for Gov. Scott," 30 June 2018 More than 7,000 families — and over 19,000 people — have participated in the voucher program nationally since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico nine months ago, wiping out its power grid and likely resulting in thousands of deaths. Aaron Leibowitz, miamiherald, "Displaced Puerto Ricans can fly home or stay in Florida with no FEMA housing. They're staying.," 30 June 2018 Milwaukee' s La Causa Charter School helps Puerto Rican families recover months after Hurricane Maria devastated their homes and schools. Jesse Garza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "After surviving Hurricane Maria, families left Puerto Rico and found homes in Milwaukee," 7 June 2018 Over 4,600 more deaths occurred in Puerto Rico in the three months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Lauren Padgett, ajc, "Study: Puerto Rico death toll 4,600 higher post-Maria," 30 May 2018 The percentage of Americans who recognized the Puerto Ricans as US Citizens did rise after all the news about how Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Harry Enten, CNN, "Americans viewed Hurricane Maria as if it was happening in another country," 30 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of devastate

1638, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for devastate

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

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Statistics for devastate

Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for devastate

The first known use of devastate was in 1638

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More Definitions for devastate



English Language Learners Definition of devastate

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

: to cause (someone) to feel extreme emotional pain


dev·​as·​tate | \ˈde-və-ˌstāt \
devastated; devastating

Kids Definition of devastate

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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