dev·​as·​tate | \ ˈde-və-ˌstāt How to pronounce devastate (audio) \
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

devastation \ ˌde-​və-​ˈstā-​shən How to pronounce devastation (audio) \ noun
devastative \ ˈde-​və-​ˌstā-​tiv How to pronounce devastative (audio) \ adjective
devastator \ ˈde-​və-​ˌstā-​tər How to pronounce devastator (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for devastate


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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 News of McClain's death devastated the law enforcement community, particularly in Detroit, whose police department has seen 238 line of duty deaths since 1878, not including McClain's. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, "Slain Detroit police officer was outgoing, funny and 'loved, loved, loved' his job," 21 Nov. 2019 UConn has a length advantage, but the Bulls have quick guards and can be devastating from the perimeter. Dom Amore,, "UConn men’s basketball vs. Buffalo: time, how to watch, broadcasters, preview," 21 Nov. 2019 The law of supply and demand is ignored in Venezuela, but not online CORRUPTION, INCOMPETENCE and sanctions have devastated Venezuela’s oil industry, the country’s main source of hard currency. The Economist, "Fantasy economics Venezuela’s paper currency is worthless, so its people seek virtual gold," 21 Nov. 2019 The outcome was a relief to the many advocates and individuals who testified, expressing alarm that sweeping changes proposed by Republican lawmakers earlier this year could devastate poor families. Deborah Yetter, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky advocates breathe easier as benefits task force makes only minor recommendations," 18 Nov. 2019 But these toxic toads poisoned and devastated a number of species, including the curious-looking and carnivorous marsupial known as the northern quoll. Ashley Braun, Longreads, "Research and Rescue: Saving Species from Ourselves," 24 Oct. 2019 When the studies were halted because the drug, aducanumab, did not appear to be working, they had been devastated. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "Alzheimer’s patients in Biogen trial, jolted by revival of drug, press for access once again," 22 Oct. 2019 In the wake of the Green Revolution, insects such as the rice hispa and the brown planthopper, which had never before posed a significant problem, devastated rice crops in several Asian countries. Debal Deb, Scientific American, "The Struggle to Save Heirloom Rice in India," 16 Oct. 2019 This shutdown comes four months after authorities announced that PG&E electrical lines caused November’s devastating Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive. Annie Sciacca, The Mercury News, "As heat pumps up fire danger, PG&E begins power shutoffs," 24 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for devastate

Time Traveler

The first known use of devastate was in 1638

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Statistics for devastate

Last Updated

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Devastate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

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More Definitions for devastate


How to pronounce devastate (audio)

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 How to pronounce devastate (audio) \
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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Comments on devastate

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