self-mu·​ti·​la·​tion ˌself-ˌmyü-tə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce self-mutilation (audio)
: the act of inflicting injury or disfigurement to one's own body
The original wound reopened and became dangerously infected, and yet this classic display of canine self-mutilation continued.Dog Watch
But there seem to be, nevertheless, very few cases of actual cowardice. Of these, the majority involve self-mutilation by conscripts, in an attempt to be invalided out of the Army.Carey Schofield
… a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered the state to pay for the private care of a 19-year- old man suffering from a rare neurological disorder that prompts violent bouts of self-mutilation.Claudia Puig
specifically : the act of purposely hurting oneself (as by cutting or burning the skin) as an emotional coping mechanism : self-harm
… the terrible incidence of self-mutilation, or cutting, particularly among young girls. Judy Quinn
self-mutilate intransitive verb
self-mutilated; self-mutilating; self-mutilates
self-mutilating behavior

Examples of self-mutilation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That can lead to negative behaviors like pacing, excessive sleeping and vocalizations, feather-picking and even self-mutilation. Rachel Feltman, Popular Science, 19 July 2023 Pádraic doesn’t come off as tedious enough for Colm to threaten self-mutilation should his former friend so much as wave hello to him again. Hazlitt, 17 May 2023 His single-minded pursuit of his art and his callous self-indulgence lead one of them to madness, another to self-mutilation and an early demise. Alida Becker, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1637, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of self-mutilation was in 1637

Dictionary Entries Near self-mutilation

Cite this Entry

“Self-mutilation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Medical Definition


self-mu·​ti·​la·​tion -ˌmyüt-ə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce self-mutilation (audio)
: injury or disfigurement of oneself
self-mutilation associated with the Lesch-Nyhan syndrome
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