verb dis·able \ dis-ˈā-bəl , diz-ˈā- \
|Updated on: 19 Jul 2018

Definition of disable

disabled; disabling play \-b(ə-)liŋ\
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


play \-bəl-mənt\ noun
    • physical disablement
    • Nor does it tackle the disablement of any North Korean program to enrich uranium.
    • —Thomas Omestad


    • 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

Examples of disable in a Sentence

  1. a promising athlete who was severely disabled in a plane crash

  2. disabled the controls for unauthorized users

Recent Examples of disable from the Web

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.

First Known Use of disable

15th century

in the meaning defined at sense 2

See Words from the same year
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Synonym Discussion of 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

DISABLE Defined for Kids


verb dis·able \ dis-ˈā-bəl \

Definition of disable for Students

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

Medical Dictionary


transitive verb dis·able \ dis-ˈā-bəl, diz- \

medical Definition of disable

disabled; disabling play \-b(ə-)liŋ\
: to deprive of a mental or physical capacity

Law Dictionary


transitive verb dis·able

legal Definition of disable

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



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