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

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 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

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

Statistics for institutionalize

Last Updated

28 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for institutionalize

The first known use of institutionalize was in 1865

See more words from the same year

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).


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Dictionary Devil

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!