dis·​able | \ dis-ˈā-bəl How to pronounce disable (audio) , diz-ˈā-\
disabled; disabling\ dis-​ˈā-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce disabling (audio) , diz-​ˈā-​ \

Definition of disable

transitive verb

1a : to make ineffective or inoperative disable a bomb For victims of smartphone theft, the ultimate justice is hitting a button that disables the device, turning it into a worthless rectangular paperweight.— Heather Kelley … gene editing makes it possible to change or disable a single gene without changing the "meaning" of the rest of the genome.— Kat McGowan
b : to impair physically or mentally : to cause disability in Automobile accidents kill nearly 50,000 people each year. … Accidents maim or disable another 80,000.— Matt Clark and Mary Hager Diet-related Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease disable and kill people …— Mark Bittman
2 : to deprive of legal right, qualification, or capacity … the injured party was released from the bonds of marriage; but the offender, during life, or a term of years, was disabled from the repetition of nuptials.— Edward Gibbon

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Other Words from disable

disablement \ dis-​ˈā-​bəl-​mənt How to pronounce disablement (audio) , diz-​ˈā-​ \ noun
physical disablement Nor does it tackle the disablement of any North Korean program to enrich uranium. — Thomas Omestad
disabling adjective
Bipolar disorder is one of the world's 10 most disabling conditions, taking away years of healthy functioning from individuals who have the illness. — David J. Kupfer This is a rare, disabling pain disorder in which ordinary sensation such as touch, warmth and coolness are perceived as painful and minor knocks are agonizing. — Maia Szalavitz

Choose the Right Synonym for disable

weaken, enfeeble, debilitate, undermine, sap, cripple, disable mean to lose or cause to lose strength or vigor. weaken may imply loss of physical strength, health, soundness, or stability or of quality, intensity, or effective power. a disease that weakens the body's defenses enfeeble implies a condition of marked weakness and helplessness. enfeebled by starvation debilitate suggests a less marked or more temporary impairment of strength or vitality. the debilitating effects of surgery undermine and sap suggest a weakening by something working surreptitiously and insidiously. a poor diet undermines your health drugs had sapped his ability to think cripple implies causing a serious loss of functioning power through damaging or removing an essential part or element. crippled by arthritis disable suggests bringing about impairment or limitation in a physical or mental ability. disabled by an injury sustained at work

Examples of disable in a Sentence

a promising athlete who was severely disabled in a plane crash disabled the controls for unauthorized users

Recent Examples on the Web

The pursuit ended near E Street and 6th Street in Marysville after spike strips were used to disable the suspect's vehicle. Barbara Harvey, sacbee, "Yuba County Sheriff's K-9 will likely survive Friday shooting, department says | The Sacramento Bee," 7 Apr. 2018 Without such steps being emphasized in emergency checklists, crews may lack a full understanding of how MCAS works and how to disable it, these pilots say. Andrew Tangel, WSJ, "Pilots Take Aim at Instructions for Boeing 737 MAX," 3 Apr. 2019 Google will allow the option to disable it, or only keep it on when connected to Wi-Fi, but the company appears convinced that Autoplay on Home is a better way to experience and browse YouTube on the move. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Google’s appearance before Congress will mark a turning point for its CEO," 5 Dec. 2018 But that approach doesn't work with the new 737 MAX system—the pilots have to disable the stabilizer. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Black box data shows pilots fought control system in Indonesia crash," 28 Nov. 2018 In other words, the Army wants to disable or destroy a drone with an airborne microwave beam. Fox News, "US Army eyes microwave cannon to take out drones," 11 Aug. 2018 In the interests of public safety, a deputy used Stop Sticks to disable the vehicle. Max Londberg, kansascity, "Dead animals put in Cass County mailboxes, Sheriff's crime report says," 10 Apr. 2018 In 2016, a Los Angeles hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated and disabled its computer network. James Rogers, Fox News, "San Diego port targeted in ransomware attack," 28 Sep. 2018 The technology was the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the US and has only just returned to Europe after it was disabled in 2012 to comply with the region’s privacy regulation. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Facebook’s Echo Show rival could be announced next week," 21 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disable.' 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 disable

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Statistics for disable

Last Updated

10 May 2019

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The first known use of disable was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for disable


dis·​able | \ dis-ˈā-bəl How to pronounce disable (audio) \
disabled; disabling

Kids Definition of disable

: to make unable or incapable He disabled the computer system.


transitive verb
dis·​able | \ dis-ˈā-bəl, diz- How to pronounce disable (audio) \
disabled; disabling\ -​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce disabling (audio) \

Medical Definition of disable

: to impair physically or mentally : to cause disability in Automobile accidents kill nearly 50,000 people each year. … Accidents maim or disable another 80,000.— Matt Clark and Mary Hager Diet-related Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease disable and kill people …— Mark Bittman


transitive verb
disabled; disabling

Legal Definition of disable

1 : to deprive of legal right, qualification, or capacity
2 : to make incapable or ineffective specifically : to cause to have a disability

Other Words from disable

disablement noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on disable

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with disable

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for disable

Spanish Central: Translation of disable

Nglish: Translation of disable for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of disable for Arabic Speakers

Comments on disable

What made you want to look up disable? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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