mil·​i·​tate ˈmi-lə-ˌtāt How to pronounce militate (audio)
militated; militating

intransitive verb

: to have weight or effect
his boyish appearance militated against his getting an early promotion
Mitigate vs. Militate: Usage Guide

Mitigate is sometimes used as an intransitive (followed by against) where militate might be expected. Even though Faulkner used it

some intangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him William Faulkner

and one critic thinks it should be called an American idiom, it is usually considered a mistake.

Examples of militate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The plain text, historical context, and unbroken understanding of the HEROES Act still militate directly against President Biden’s action. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 28 Feb. 2023 The grown-up will vainly make the case for a three-course meal at that highly rated trailside bistro, while the kid, content to run on Gatorade and Clif bars, will militate for pit stops at playgrounds and amphibian-friendly bogs. Taras Grescoe, WSJ, 26 Aug. 2021 In addition to these legal factors, a practical consideration also militate against appointing a special counsel: time. Barbara McQuade, Time, 17 Nov. 2022 There should be no zoning laws imposed, as has been done in other states, that, in a transparent attempt dictatorially to change the character of our suburbs, militate against single-family housing in favor of multifamily dwellings. Matt Canham, The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Oct. 2021 Melanin levels varied, but most of the citizens had applied thick white lotion to their bodies to militate against UV damage from the failing yet persistent sunshine of the late British summer of a very bad year. Hermione Hoby, Harper's Magazine, 22 June 2021 That would militate in favor of the president’s naming a strong judicial conservative and McConnell’s trying to move it across the goal line. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 19 Sep. 2020 While mitigate has an undercurrent of facilitation, militate is more of a suppressive, authoritarian thing. Arunabh Saikia, Quartz India, 23 Mar. 2020 New infectious diseases come out of the blue, each with its own idiosyncrasies that militate against detailed advance planning. Robert Dingwall, Wired, 29 Jan. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'militate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin militatus, past participle of militare to engage in warfare, from milit-, miles

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of militate was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near militate

Cite this Entry

“Militate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


mil·​i·​tate ˈmil-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce militate (audio)
militated; militating
: to have weight or effect : operate
factors militating against success
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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