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ener·​vate i-ˈnər-vət How to pronounce enervate (audio)
: lacking physical, mental, or moral vigor : enervated


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en·​er·​vate ˈe-nər-ˌvāt How to pronounce enervate (audio)
enervated; enervating

transitive verb

: to reduce the mental or moral vigor of
: to lessen the vitality or strength of
enervatingly adverb
enervation noun

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between enervate and innervate?

Enervate and innervate are pronounced in a very similar manner and share the Latin root nervus (meaning "sinew"), but they are distinct in meaning. Enervate (as a verb) means "to lessen the vitality or strength of," while innervate means "to supply with nerves."

What is the difference between enervate and energize?

Enervate has the twin misfortune of sharing a beginning with energize and an ending with invigorate, causing many people to assume that it must overlap with these two words in meaning. However, it is roughly the opposite, meaning "to lessen the vitality or strength of." This is a common mistake, but has not yet become so common as to be accepted.

Can enervate be an adjective?

Yes, enervate can function as an adjective, with the meaning of "lacking physical, mental, or moral vigor." An example of such adjectival use can be found in the poem Ode to Drowshood, by Charles G. D. Roberts: "In fervid sunshine, where the Javan palm stirs, scarce awakened from its odorous calm by the enervate wind…."

Choose the Right Synonym for enervate

unnerve, enervate, unman, emasculate mean to deprive of strength or vigor and the capacity for effective action.

unnerve implies marked often temporary loss of courage, self-control, or power to act.

unnerved by the near collision

enervate suggests a gradual physical or moral weakening (as through luxury or indolence) until one is too feeble to make an effort.

a nation's youth enervated by affluence and leisure

unman implies a loss of manly vigor, fortitude, or spirit.

a soldier unmanned by the terrors of battle

emasculate stresses a depriving of characteristic force by removing something essential.

an amendment that emasculates existing safeguards

Examples of enervate in a Sentence

Verb a lifetime of working in dreary jobs had enervated his very soul the surgery really enervated me for weeks afterwards
Recent Examples on the Web
This relationship, when successful, tends to enervate mediating institutions that thwart the immediate desires of both the populist leader and the public. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, 28 Feb. 2021 The saving grace of this often enervating thriller is that Doscher grants time for his actors to build character and intimacy, and both Pinto and Odom offer warm, affectingly natural performances as two people facing the end of their world. Teo Bugbee, New York Times, 5 Mar. 2020 To a great extent, that reflects the endless, enervating nature of the Brexit debate. Mark Landler, New York Times, 31 Jan. 2020 Jack’s enervating recovery in The Way Back is full of drab, predictable pathos instead of the stylized drama in Dawn of Justice. Armond White, National Review, 6 Mar. 2020 Perhaps the most intimate of these photographs presents her after a shower, wet and enervated, rubbing a cloth across her reflection in a mirror, as though the condensation were crud. Eren Orbey, The New Yorker, 6 Feb. 2020 Then again, enervating her supporters has been Madonna’s M.O. in recent years. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 3 July 2019 But the art which resists the slow sap of a chronic disease—which repairs frames enervated by lust, swollen by gluttony, or inflamed by wine . . Chris Pope, WSJ, 17 Mar. 2019 Such behavior is particularly enervating when the West aims to bring new countries into permanent and universal—that is, Western-style—guarantees of security and systems of relations. I. William Zartman, WSJ, 24 June 2018

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

Word History



Latin enervatus, past participle of enervare, from e- + nervus sinew — more at nerve

First Known Use


1603, in the meaning defined above


1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of enervate was in 1603


Dictionary Entries Near enervate

Cite this Entry

“Enervate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enervate. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


enervated; enervating
: to cause to decline in strength or vigor : weaken
enervatingly adverb

Medical Definition


transitive verb
en·​er·​vate ˈen-ər-ˌvāt How to pronounce enervate (audio)
enervated; enervating
obsolete : to cut the nerves or tendons of
: to lessen the vitality or strength of
heat enervates people
enervation noun

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