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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Republic of Spin, like all good histories, offers a warning about the present: Spin has been institutionalized, Greenberg suggests. The Atlantic, "What We’re Reading This Summer," 28 June 2019 In recent years, there has been increasing debate about the possibility of institutionalizing people who have severe mental illness. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Can San Diego get its arms around homelessness and mental health problems?," 28 June 2019 The treaty created a new, shared political system for the country but also institutionalized Bosnia’s divisions. Alicia Prager, Quartz, "A new party wants to break Bosnia’s political deadlock using computer science," 28 June 2019 Racial and ethnic discrimination was institutionalized in every sector of life, from housing to banking. Elaine Ayala,, "Is a detention center a concentration camp?," 22 June 2019 At the same time, primary caregivers whose charges are institutionalized suffer from helplessness and anxiety. Ann Neumann, Harper's magazine, "Going to Extremes," 10 June 2019 The survey covers Americans age 16 and older who aren't institutionalized or on active duty in the military. Thom Patterson, CNN, "The most generous state in America," 4 June 2019 Henderson refused repeatedly to institutionalize Cruz, even as his mother pleaded with them to do so. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "A Parkland Father’s Quest for Accountability," 11 Jan. 2019 The American Academy of Pediatrics and many experts warn against institutionalizing children in large groups. Garance Burke, The Seattle Times, "AP Investigation: Migrant kids held in mass shelters," 19 Dec. 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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Statistics for institutionalize

Last Updated

4 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for institutionalize

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-​ 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

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