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 Statewide restrictions that were enacted to ease the burden on the big cities have devastated hospitals in rural areas like Jack County that don’t perform surgeries around the clock, Beaman said. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, "Jacksboro’s ‘lifeblood’ rural hospital feels abandoned during pandemic," 24 May 2020 Scientists fear conditions are similar to 2005, when a record 28 storms clawed across the ocean, including Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, killing 1,800 people. Josh Priti, Fortune, "Europe pushes for a green recovery as the Trump Administration weakens environmental protections," 22 May 2020 The only precedent for its rapid spread to every continent, killing people everywhere and devastating both local economies and world trade, was the flu pandemic of 1918-19. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "The Germs That Transformed History," 22 May 2020 Commanding Support The showdown reflects a wider geopolitical struggle between the U.S., its allies and China, whose authoritarian system is under scrutiny as the pandemic devastates the world’s economy., "China’s Xi to Address Key WHO Meeting Following Fight Over Virus," 19 May 2020 Meanwhile, heavy rainfall and devastating flash flooding are hampering efforts to knock out the infestation for good. Nathanial Gronewold, Scientific American, "To Track Massive Locust Swarms, Officials Use Tool that Forecasts Smoke Plumes," 15 May 2020 In the last three years, Trump has tightened the near sixty-year-old embargo against the island, devastating its already fragile economy. Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal," 15 May 2020 Independent analysts warn that such a change would devastate the agency, which increasingly has relied on such deliveries for a fast-growing portion of its business. Author: Jacob Bogage, Josh Dawsey, Anchorage Daily News, "Postal service launches review of package delivery fees as Trump pressure grows," 14 May 2020 The virtual halt to travel has exacerbated the global economy’s woes, complicating trade ties, upending business and devastating the tourism industry. The Economist, "A good kind of bubble Could travel bubbles offer a route to economic recovery?," 14 May 2020

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

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Devastate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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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