di·​vest dī-ˈvest How to pronounce divest (audio)
divested; divesting; divests

transitive verb

: to deprive or dispossess especially of property, authority, or title
divesting assets to raise capital
was divested of his rights
divesting herself of all her worldly possessions
encouraged the university to divest itself from fossil fuels
: to undress or strip especially of clothing, ornament, or equipment
Christmas trees divested of their ornaments
: rid, free
: to take away from a person
divestment noun

Did you know?

The vest in divest is a close relation of the kind found in closets—its origin is Latin vestis meaning “clothing, garment.” (Vest has the same source and first appeared in English as a verb in the 15th century meaning “to put on garments or vestments.”) Divest today mostly appears in legal and business contexts about a formal removal or loss of something of value; assets that are divested are sold or given away; someone divested of a right officially loses that right. The word’s first late 16th century use, however, was more intimately related to its roots: divest was then used to mean “to undress or strip especially of clothing, ornament, or equipment.” But broader application of divest soon followed. In Shakespeare’s Henry V, the French King Charles is told via messenger that England’s King Henry “wills you, in the name of God Almighty, / That you divest yourself, and lay apart / ... the crown / And all wide-stretched honours that pertain ...”

Examples of divest in a Sentence

The company is divesting 8 of its 20 stores. We may have to divest assets to raise capital.
Recent Examples on the Web While these companies would not be forced to divest any expansions would require approval. Katie Bernard, Kansas City Star, 7 Feb. 2024 After some discussion, to the delight of the audience and against the recommendation of city staff, the council voted 4-3 to divest from the four companies. Will McCarthy, The Mercury News, 2 Feb. 2024 Illumina will divest Grail by the end of this year’s second quarter. Natallie Rocha, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Feb. 2024 The movement has taken hold at dozens of colleges across the country in recent years, where students have called on leaders to divest from fossil fuels and urged lawmakers to pass climate legislation. Lauren Lumpkin, Washington Post, 29 Jan. 2024 Rather, each sovereign state has an inherent right to self-defense that the federal government may not divest; ergo, of course permission from the federal government could never be a prerequisite to state action in self-defense arising from an invasion or other imminent danger. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 27 Jan. 2024 Also in Sacramento, a progressive California lawmaker has divested her personal finances from Big Oil after an L.A. Times investigation spotlighted her fossil fuel investments. Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times, 18 Jan. 2024 In 2020, Wella Company divested from Coty, establishing a new beauty business devoted to the hair and nail categories. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, 17 Jan. 2024 Most were happy to see Carl Icahn push for Grail to be divested earlier this year, agreeing with him that the money-losing firm was weighing heavily on Illumina’s earnings and distracting it from focusing on its core business. David Wainer, WSJ, 18 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


alteration of devest

First Known Use

1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of divest was in 1623


Dictionary Entries Near divest

Cite this Entry

“Divest.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divest. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


di·​vest dī-ˈvest How to pronounce divest (audio)
: to take something off or away from
divested myself of my heavy backpack

Legal Definition


transitive verb
di·​vest dī-ˈvest, də- How to pronounce divest (audio)
: to deprive or dispossess (oneself) of property through divestiture
divestment noun

Anglo-French devestir, literally, to undress, from Old French desvestir, from de(s)-, prefix marking reversal + vestir to dress, from Latin vestire

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