disable

verb

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

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
disablement 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, 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

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 Various studies have shown that such attitudes are not only demotivating but also associated with disgust toward and discrimination against people with obesity — and that the experience of weight stigma can be seriously disabling. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 7 June 2024 Last month, sources told Bloomberg that TSMC and Dutch firm ASML, which has a presence in Taiwan, reportedly have the ability to remotely disable their chip manufacturing equipment if China ever invaded Taiwan. Kate Irwin, PCMAG, 5 June 2024 China, Russia, and Iran are all seeking the power to disable water and other critical infrastructure throughout the U.S., the EPA said. Nick Rockel, Fortune, 24 May 2024 The ceremony, held at the Harford County Government Offices in Bel Air, honored those men and women who have died or were disabled in the line of duty. The Aegis, Baltimore Sun, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for disable 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'disable.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English disablen "to deprive of legal rights" (in past participle disabled), borrowed from Anglo-French desabler, from des- dis- + able able, or from abler "to permit, make able to inherit," derivative of able able

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near disable

Cite this Entry

“Disable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disable. Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

disable

verb
dis·​able dis-ˈā-bəl How to pronounce disable (audio)
disabled; disabling -b(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce disable (audio)
1
: to disqualify legally
2
: to cause to be unable to do or act
disable a computer key
especially : to deprive of physical or moral strength
a disabling illness
disablement noun

Medical Definition

disable

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

Legal Definition

disable

transitive verb
dis·​able
disabled; disabling
1
: to deprive of legal right, qualification, or capacity
2
: to make incapable or ineffective
specifically : to cause to have a disability
disablement noun

More from Merriam-Webster on disable

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