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

Definition of institutionalize

transitive verb

1 : to make into an institution : give character of an institution to especially : to incorporate into a structured and often highly formalized system … he has tried to institutionalize the bank's practices so that it can carry on when he no longer leads it. — Bruce Shenitz In 2005, The New York Times revealed a set of NSA surveillance programs that, though considered shocking at the time, have since been institutionalized. — David Brown
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from institutionalize

institutionalization \ ˌin(t)-​stə-​ˌt(y)ü-​shnə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce institutionalization (audio) , -​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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web And again, about Woodward, if Woodward transcribed my behavior, I would be institutionalized. Fox News, "Maxine Waters renews calls to impeach President Trump," 11 Sep. 2018 He was born in 1967, shortly after the creation of the Syrian Arab Republic, which institutionalized the repression of Kurds. Luke Mogelson, The New Yorker, "America’s Abandonment of Syria," 20 Apr. 2020 Arguments will arise over whether their status should be cataloged and banked, or whether such classification would institutionalize creepy two-tier categories of citizenship. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "We Are Approaching COVID-19 Gut-Check Time," 16 Apr. 2020 This legacy of slavery was institutionalized with the New Deal-era Fair Labor and Standards Act of 1938, which introduced the country's first federal minimum wage of $0.25. Taylor Mooney, CBS News, "The disturbing history of tipping in the U.S.: "It's literally a slave wage"," 30 Mar. 2020 Thanks to a series of public-policy moves, including slashing federal funding for state colleges and institutionalizing debt as a means to pay for it, millennials ended up owing nearly four times as much in student loans as their parents did. Charlotte Alter, Time, "How Millennial Leaders Will Change America," 23 Jan. 2020 By that time, Pavelich will be on trial or still institutionalized in the Minnesota treatment facility., ", Mark Pavelich," 7 Dec. 2019 During that period, South Korea’s ruling military dictatorships aggressively institutionalized and exported poor children for profit and to clear the streets of those considered socially unacceptable. Washington Post, "AP Exclusive: Abusive S Korean facility exported children," 9 Nov. 2019 At the time, more than half a million Americans were institutionalized with mental illness. Anchorage Daily News, "Listening, learning, doing no harm: The evolution of mental health care," 10 Oct. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of institutionalize

1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about institutionalize

Time Traveler for institutionalize

Time Traveler

The first known use of institutionalize was in 1865

See more words from the same year

Statistics for institutionalize

Cite this Entry

“Institutionalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for institutionalize


transitive verb
variants: or chiefly British institutionalise \ ˌin(t)-​stə-​ˈt(y)ü-​shnəl-​ˌīz, -​shən-​ᵊl-​ How to pronounce institutionalise (audio) \
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-​ How to pronounce institutionalisation (audio) \ noun


transitive verb
in·​sti·​tu·​tion·​al·​ize | \ ˌin-stə-ˈtü-shə-nə-ˌlīz, -ˈtyü- How to pronounce institutionalize (audio) \
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

Comments on institutionalize

What made you want to look up institutionalize? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!