van·​dal·​ize ˈvan-də-ˌlīz How to pronounce vandalize (audio)
vandalized; vandalizing

transitive verb

: to subject to vandalism : damage
vandalization noun

Did you know?

At one point in Frodo’s journey in The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien depicts an ancient statue overlooking a crossroads: “Its head was gone, and in its place was set in mockery a round rough-hewn stone, rudely painted … in the likeness of a grinning face with one large red eye in the midst of its forehead.” The statue had been vandalized by orcs, but the roots of vandalize have more in common with the name of a Tolkien hero. Vandalize comes from the noun vandal, which was originally capitalized and referred to a member of a Germanic people who lived south of the Baltic Sea and sacked Rome in the year 455 CE. This sacking is what likely led to the use of the lower-case vandal for someone who damages or destroys property. The Late Latin word for such a Vandal was Vandalī, a word probably borrowed from a Germanic verb meaning “wend, turn” that also gave rise to the Old English Ēarendel, the name of a mythological figure that inspired Tolkien’s creation of Eärendil, a mariner who wends his way across the sky of Middle Earth carrying the morning star.

Examples of vandalize in a Sentence

Our car was vandalized in the parking lot. he decided to vandalize the store because the owner had kicked him out
Recent Examples on the Web The Bronze Fonz has been restored to its former glory after being vandalized earlier this week. Drew Dawson, Journal Sentinel, 8 Sep. 2023 The officer took a picture of the sign, which is privately owned and had apparently been vandalized, police said. Emily Sweeney,, 6 Sep. 2023 The Church of the Holy Family in Grand Blanc was recently vandalized, according to a Twitter post from Father Joseph Krupp. Marina Johnson, Detroit Free Press, 6 Sep. 2023 Patrick Murphy was charged with a hate crime and criminal mischief following the June 10 incident, in which multiple LGBTQ Pride flags displayed at the Stonewall National Monument were vandalized. Jay Valle, NBC News, 29 Aug. 2023 In Brownsville specifically, the community is still on edge after a trans woman disappeared in 2019 while city Pride displays were vandalized earlier this year. Luis G. Rendon, Los Angeles Times, 22 Aug. 2023 But since then, Byrd’s grave has been repeatedly vandalized, including when two White teenagers wrote racial slurs and knocked over the tombstone. Emmanuel Felton, Washington Post, 21 Aug. 2023 The Times reported Wednesday that the city received extensive reports of damage at the Mayfair during Project Roomkey, with participants in the program breaking windows, vandalizing bathrooms and in one case, punching a hole in a wall in the lobby. David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, 18 Aug. 2023 The New York Times 5 Pakistan churches attacked after 2 Christians accused of desecrating Quran A Muslim mob vandalized several churches and torched dozens of houses in a Christian community in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday after two Christians were accused of blasphemy. Harold Maass, The Week, 17 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


vandal + -ize

First Known Use

1832, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of vandalize was in 1832


Dictionary Entries Near vandalize

Cite this Entry

“Vandalize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


van·​dal·​ize ˈvan-dᵊl-ˌīz How to pronounce vandalize (audio)
vandalized; vandalizing
: to destroy or damage property on purpose

Legal Definition


transitive verb
van·​dal·​ize ˈvand-ᵊl-ˌīz How to pronounce vandalize (audio)
vandalized; vandalizing
: to subject to vandalism

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