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, 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

Example Sentences

a promising athlete who was severely disabled in a plane crash disabled the controls for unauthorized users
Recent Examples on the Web Twitter employees sent Thursday night said it was decided to temporarily disable sign-ups for Twitter Blue, its new $7.99 offering that allows accounts to receive a blue check mark. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2022 Hackers reached but did not have time to disable the student information system. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, 9 Sep. 2022 Last year, Twitter was forced to temporarily disable the feature in Ethiopia during escalating crisis in the country. Carlos Mureithi, Quartz, 24 Feb. 2022 Owners are being asked to remove the ATV’s motor controller – the computer that controls power from the batteries going to the electric motor – and send it to Radio Flyer, which will permanently disable the product. Peter Valdes-dapena, CNN, 29 Oct. 2022 Additionally, like its pricer counterparts, this scale has a safe mode that will disable the electrical current needed to determine BIA (bioelectrical impedance analysis), something that’s recommended for those with pacemakers or who are pregnant. Kara Cuzzone, Forbes, 4 June 2021 In other words, an attacker could potentially disable the very tools users rely on to warn them about suspicious activity. WIRED, 27 Oct. 2022 That disease results from mutations that disable a protein called C1-esterase inhibitor that’s part of a signaling pathway controlling levels of bradykinin, a peptide hormone that causes blood vessels to leak fluid. Byjocelyn Kaiser, science.org, 16 Sep. 2022 But just like the Lock Screen features, the Dynamic Island probably isn’t something users can disable. Chris Smith, BGR, 8 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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 8 Dec. 2022.

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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