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 Nasser Hospital, the main medical site in the city, was still standing, but barely, its interior devastated. Júlia Ledur, Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2024 Last year, preservation-minded fans of midcentury modern architecture were devastated when another one of L.A.’s historic gems was surreptitiously demolished with little warning. James McClain, Robb Report, 8 Apr. 2024 The Mountain House community is devastated by his loss. David Chiu, Peoplemag, 4 Apr. 2024 When an earthquake devastates a city, information can be in short supply. IEEE Spectrum, 4 Apr. 2024 Unless Congress adds more money, that level of funding would devastate the program, researchers say; not only would new instruments not be added, but buoys that have been measuring data for years would literally get pulled out of the water. Ella Nilsen, CNN, 2 Apr. 2024 The Gaza region has been devastated by violence and bombings since Oct. 7, when terrorist attacks and hostage-taking by Hamas set off war with Israel. Michaela Zee, Variety, 2 Apr. 2024 Recently, a life insurance customer was devastated at the prospect of missing her monthly payment. Allison Arzeno, Forbes, 29 Mar. 2024 Williams and Morrow were two of the four people who died when an EF3 tornado devastated much of Wynne on March 31, 2023. Bill Bowden,, 29 Mar. 2024

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 13 Apr. 2024.

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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