in·​sti·​tu·​tion·​al·​ize | \ˌin(t)-stə-ˈt(y)ü-shnə-ˌlīz, -shə-nə-ˌlīz\
institutionalized; institutionalizing

Definition of institutionalize 

transitive verb

1 : to make into an institution : give character of an institution to institutionalized housing especially : to incorporate into a structured and often highly formalized system institutionalized values

2 : to place in or commit to the care of a specialized institution (such as a psychiatric hospital) Thirty years ago doctors routinely advised parents to institutionalize children with Down syndrome and other disabilities …Parenting

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Other Words from institutionalize

institutionalization \ˌin(t)-​stə-​ˌt(y)ü-​shnə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən, -​shə-​nə-​lə-​ˈzā-​ \ noun

Examples of institutionalize in a Sentence

It will take time to institutionalize these reforms. They had to institutionalize their youngest son. She was institutionalized for seven years.
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Recent Examples on the Web

People with asthma, and those who don’t get into the sun at all, like the homebound or institutionalized, may also be prescribed a supplement. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Millions of Americans take vitamin D. Most should just stop.," 9 Oct. 2018 Cleveland institutionalized Halpin in 1874, and by 1881, won the election for mayor of Buffalo. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "8 Men Whose Sexual Misconduct Allegations Prove It's Long Been a Big Part of U.S. Politics," 12 Oct. 2018 Financing for home slips has been institutionalized by Wall Street players, and with much of America’s housing stock now having aged considerably, the need for renovation is attracting more startups into the space. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "New home flipping platform sells to the first bidder, not the highest," 19 Sep. 2018 Like, midlife crisis, institutionalized, blacklisted, no family. Mariah Haas, Fox News, "Drew Barrymore opens up about her childhood drug abuse: Cocaine 'seems like my worst nightmare right now'," 14 Sep. 2018 The conference institutionalized, but also became lower-profile. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Netroots Nation, explained," 2 Aug. 2018 Its initial reaction to the scandal was to propose new regulations institutionalizing the discriminatory practices, as if the problem was merely that conservative organizations didn’t know in advance that the IRS would single them out. Bradley A. Smith, WSJ, "The Unresolved IRS Scandal," 9 May 2018 The continuity and consistency of the forum helped institutionalize China’s multilateral cooperation with African states. Lina Benabdallah, Washington Post, "China-Africa military ties have deepened. Here are 4 things to know.," 6 July 2018 An angry mob spotted the blond and blue-eyed Biehl, and saw her as a symbol of apartheid, South Africa’s institutionalized racial segregation that began in 1948 and ended in 1994. Makeda Easter,, "An American scholar was killed in South Africa nearly 25 years ago. Today her legacy lives on through music," 4 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'institutionalize.' 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 institutionalize

1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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5 Dec 2018

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The first known use of institutionalize was in 1865

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More Definitions for institutionalize


transitive verb
variants: or chiefly British institutionalise \ˌin(t)-​stə-​ˈt(y)ü-​shnəl-​ˌīz, -​shən-​ᵊl-​ \
institutionalized or chiefly British institutionalised; institutionalizing or chiefly British institutionalising

Medical Definition of institutionalize 

: to place in or commit to the care of a specialized institution Thirty years ago doctors routinely advised parents to institutionalize children with Down syndrome and other disabilities …Parenting, August 1994

Other Words from institutionalize

institutionalization or chiefly British institutionalisation \-​ˌt(y)ü-​shnəl-​ə-​ˈzā-​shən, -​ˌt(y)ü-​shən-​ᵊl-​ \ noun


transitive verb
in·​sti·​tu·​tion·​al·​ize | \ˌin-stə-ˈtü-shə-nə-ˌlīz, -ˈtyü- \
institutionalized; institutionalizing

Legal Definition of institutionalize 

: to put in the care of an institution — compare commit

More from Merriam-Webster on institutionalize

Spanish Central: Translation of institutionalize

Nglish: Translation of institutionalize for Spanish Speakers

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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