impair

verb

im·​pair im-ˈper How to pronounce impair (audio)
impaired; impairing; impairs

transitive verb

: to diminish in function, ability, or quality : to weaken or make worse
It has been known for nearly 100 years that memory is impaired by bilateral damage to either of two brain regions …Larry R. Squire
The use of drugs further complicates the situation of these families and sometimes impairs their ability to raise children.Ellen L. Bassuk
… the prospect of generating normal profitability is impaired by excessive debt service.John Nozell
The physician also checks for signs of endometriosis, a condition in which the cells that normally compose the uterine lining grow outside the uterus, sometimes impairing fertility.Martha Southgate
impairer noun
… the overwhelming majority of hookups involved alcohol use—an impairer of sexual judgment if ever there was one … Tiffany Sharples
Choose the Right Synonym for impair

injure, harm, hurt, damage, impair, mar mean to affect injuriously.

injure implies the inflicting of anything detrimental to one's looks, comfort, health, or success.

badly injured in an accident

harm often stresses the inflicting of pain, suffering, or loss.

careful not to harm the animals

hurt implies inflicting a wound to the body or to the feelings.

hurt by their callous remarks

damage suggests injury that lowers value or impairs usefulness.

a table damaged in shipping

impair suggests a making less complete or efficient by deterioration or diminution.

years of smoking had impaired his health

mar applies to injury that spoils perfection (as of a surface) or causes disfigurement.

the text is marred by many typos

Example Sentences

Smoking can impair your health. Drinking impairs a person's ability to think clearly. His memory was so impaired by age that he often forgot where he was.
Recent Examples on the Web This may impair their offense because of how often the Bulldogs run a two tight-end formation and their tight ends account for close to 1,200 yards receiving combined. Chris Ilenstine, Chicago Tribune, 9 Jan. 2023 Actually, this can further impair the skin barrier, leading to more skin issues. Hannah Coates, Glamour, 31 Dec. 2022 The condition can severely impair quality and can reduce life expectancy by 3 to 10 years. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 And the internet disruptions impair not just the IT sector but basic public and private financial services, such as pension payments, mobile banking, tax collection and digital sales. Jeff Stein And David L. Stern, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Dec. 2022 And the internet disruptions impair not just the IT sector but basic public and private financial services, such as pension payments, mobile banking, tax collection and digital sales. David L. Stern, Washington Post, 15 Dec. 2022 Alcohol and drugs can impair a person’s reaction time, thinking and physical ability to navigate the road. Jen Christensen, CNN, 14 Dec. 2022 The Administration’s loan write-off could impair its obligation and threaten financial harm to the state. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 14 Nov. 2022 Because of this, low zinc levels can impair wound healing. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 12 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impair.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English empeiren, from Anglo-French empeirer, from Vulgar Latin *impejorare, from Latin in- + Late Latin pejorare to make worse — more at pejorative

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of impair was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near impair

Cite this Entry

“Impair.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impair. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

impair

verb
im·​pair im-ˈpa(ə)r How to pronounce impair (audio)
-ˈpe(ə)r
: to damage or make worse by or as if by making smaller, less, or weaker
smoking can impair one's health
impairment noun

Medical Definition

impair

transitive verb
: to diminish in function, ability, or quality : to weaken or make worse
It has been known for nearly 100 years that memory is impaired by bilateral damage to either of two brain regions …Larry R. Squire
The physician also checks for signs of endometriosis, a condition in which the cells that normally compose the uterine lining grow outside the uterus, sometimes impairing fertility.Martha Southgate
impairment noun

Legal Definition

impair

transitive verb
im·​pair im-ˈper How to pronounce impair (audio)
1
: to damage or make worse by or as if by diminishing
impaired health
2
: to diminish the value of (property or property rights)
specifically : to diminish the value of (legal contractual obligations) to the point that a party loses the benefit of the contract or the contract otherwise becomes invalid
a law impairing a state's own obligations was entitled to less deference Gerald Gunther
see also contract clause
impairment noun

More from Merriam-Webster on impair

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