un·​der·​mine ˌən-dər-ˈmīn How to pronounce undermine (audio)
undermined; undermining; undermines

transitive verb

: to subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly
trying to undermine his political rivals
: to weaken or ruin by degrees
: to wash away supporting material from under
: to excavate the earth beneath : form a mine under : sap
Choose the Right Synonym for undermine

weaken, enfeeble, debilitate, undermine, sap, disable mean to lose or cause to lose strength or vigor.

weaken may imply loss of physical strength, health, soundness, or stability or of quality, intensity, or effective power.

a disease that weakens the body's defenses

enfeeble implies a condition of marked weakness and helplessness.

enfeebled by starvation

debilitate suggests a less marked or more temporary impairment of strength or vitality.

the debilitating effects of surgery

undermine and sap suggest a weakening by something working surreptitiously and insidiously.

a poor diet undermines your health
drugs had sapped his ability to think

disable suggests bringing about impairment or limitation in a physical or mental ability.

disabled by an injury sustained at work

Examples of undermine in a Sentence

She tried to undermine my authority by complaining about me to my boss. The events of the past year have undermined people's confidence in the government.
Recent Examples on the Web The United Auto Workers union, which just entered its eighth day of a strike against the Big Three US automakers, says car manufacturers are using the transition to electric vehicles to undermine workers. WIRED, 22 Sep. 2023 The ex-president has been seeking to undermine the electoral process since at least 2020. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Sep. 2023 Commercial real estate is suffering, municipal taxes are declining, and the viability of businesses that depend on intense footfall–from barbers to baristas–is being undermined. Ian Goldin, Fortune, 20 Sep. 2023 Nor has the industry backed off its efforts to undermine state environmental laws. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2023 Critics also say that the very idea of an escape hatch such as SRM could undermine support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Douglas Fox, Scientific American, 19 Sep. 2023 Which would undermine not only placebos but also real medicine. Analisa Novak, CBS News, 19 Sep. 2023 Some Democrats fear that Adams’s critiques could buttress Republican messaging on immigration, undermining President Biden’s reelection campaign. Joanna Slater, Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2023 According to McKiernan, many of the 32 dioceses that have declared bankruptcy have managed to keep proceedings from the public eye, undermining claims of transparency toward survivors. Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun, 1 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'undermine.' 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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Time Traveler
The first known use of undermine was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near undermine

Cite this Entry

“Undermine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undermine. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


un·​der·​mine ˌən-dər-ˈmīn How to pronounce undermine (audio)
: to dig out or wear away the earth beneath
undermine a wall
: to weaken or ruin secretly or gradually
undermine a government
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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