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

Definition of undermine

transitive verb

1 : to subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly trying to undermine his political rivals
2 : to weaken or ruin by degrees
3 : to wash away supporting material from under
4 : to excavate the earth beneath : form a mine under : sap

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Choose the Right Synonym for undermine

weaken, enfeeble, debilitate, undermine, sap, cripple, 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 cripple implies causing a serious loss of functioning power through damaging or removing an essential part or element. crippled by arthritis 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 Hurricanes, flooding and other severe weather have undermined electric service elsewhere in the country in recent years, hobbling operations at critical infrastructure including hospitals, data centers and wastewater treatment plants. ... Bob Tita And Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Blackouts, Disasters Give Generators a Sales Boost," 2 Jan. 2020 Diplomatic tensions had undermined progress since 2011, with some Egyptian politicians even threatening to bomb the dam during construction. Tom Campbell, Orange County Register, "Celebrating the good things that happened in 2019: Tom Campbell," 31 Dec. 2019 Someone who can point out behaviors, some of which may be subconscious, that undermine your ability to accumulate assets. Michael J. Francis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "401k Adviser: Don’t let your lack of funds stop you from seeking help from a financial adviser," 27 Dec. 2019 This actually reminded me of another fictional tale of psychopathy, Gone Girl, which (unlike You) manages to make a disturbed character interesting without undermining the severity of their disorder. Katherine J Igoe, Marie Claire, "Netflix's 'You’ Is a Gorgeous, Thrilling Show — With an Ugly Problem," 18 Dec. 2019 Despite this, Trump is currently working to undermine efforts taken by California to address climate change. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Eco-Fascists Are Coming," 10 Dec. 2019 In northern Thailand, Ms. Sato photographed the farmers and children whose livelihoods and health are undermined by the uncontrolled burning of plastics. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Not just Greta: Young people worldwide take charge on climate," 6 Dec. 2019 But talks stumbled on one issue — how international carbon trading markets should operate to make emission reductions less expensive under the deal without undermining their integrity. Jean Chemnick, Scientific American, "Climate Talks Kick Off: Here Is What’s at Stake," 2 Dec. 2019 From the very beginning, a sizable number of Wampanoags disagreed with Ousamequin's decision to reach out to [the English] and tried to undermine the alliance. Claire Bugos, Smithsonian, "The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue," 27 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undermine.' 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 undermine

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

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Time Traveler for undermine

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for undermine

Last Updated

7 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Undermine.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undermining. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for undermine


How to pronounce undermine (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of undermine

: to make (someone or something) weaker or less effective usually in a secret or gradual way


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

Kids Definition of undermine

1 : to dig out or wear away the supporting earth beneath Erosion undermined the wall.
2 : to weaken secretly or little by little Their criticisms undermine my confidence.

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Comments on undermine

What made you want to look up undermine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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