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-​ \

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 disable (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 Rumors have raged about the safety of CoronaVac after President Jair Bolsonaro told supporters last year that the vaccine could disable or even kill, without offering evidence. Luciana Magalhaes, WSJ, "A Small Brazilian Town Is Beating Covid-19 Through a Unique Experiment," 7 May 2021 Scans found several large blood clots blocking veins that drain blood from the brain, a condition that can disable or kill a patient. New York Times, "‘We Were Flying Blind’: A Dr.’s Account of a Woman’s J.&J. Vaccine-Related Blood Clot Case," 16 Apr. 2021 To disable the AirTag and stop sharing your location, tap Instructions to Disable AirTag and follow the onscreen steps. Yoni Heisler, BGR, "Can Apple’s new AirTags be used to secretly track you?," 22 Apr. 2021 Do your dashboards offer the option to disable super-admin access? Yi Jin, Forbes, "Securing Your Data In The New World Of AI-Enabled Data Management," 9 Apr. 2021 Around the time the photos were circulating, Moto received an influx of one-star reviews, prompting Yelp to temporarily disable new posts. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, The Arizona Republic, "This Phoenix restaurant displayed a racist banner. Here's how it spurred a 'call to arms'," 1 Apr. 2021 Although thieves were able to disable one tracker in the car, the second one led police to a home in Opa-locka, where the car had been parked. Andrew Boryga, sun-sentinel.com, "Luxury car thieves are making a killing on the streets. In many cases, you’re helping them.," 20 Mar. 2021 Many models have options to disable the turntable, which helps when cooking or reheating food on uneven plates or dishes that are too wide to spin. Popular Science, "The best microwaves: This way for buttery popcorn and tempting leftovers," 22 Jan. 2021 Google and Apple will automatically disable contact tracing programs in regions when it isn't needed any longer, per direction from local health authorities. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "How to Use Your Phone's COVID-19 Contact Tracing Feature Safely," 13 Mar. 2021

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

History and Etymology for disable

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

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Time Traveler for disable

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disable. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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 disable (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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