vulnerable

adjective
vul·​ner·​a·​ble | \ ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl How to pronounce vulnerable (audio) , ˈvəl-nər-bəl\

Definition of vulnerable

1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2 : open to attack or damage : assailable vulnerable to criticism
3 : liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge

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Other Words from vulnerable

vulnerability \ ˌvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce vulnerability (audio) \ noun
vulnerableness \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce vulnerableness (audio) , ˈvəl-​nər-​bəl-​ \ noun
vulnerably \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​blē How to pronounce vulnerably (audio) , ˈvəl-​nər-​blē \ adverb

The History of Vulnerable

Vulnerable is ultimately derived from the Latin noun vulnus ("wound"). "Vulnus" led to the Latin verb vulnerare, meaning "to wound," and then to the Late Latin adjective vulnerabilis, which became "vulnerable" in English in the early 1600s. "Vulnerable" originally meant "capable of being physically wounded" or "having the power to wound" (the latter is now obsolete), but since the late 1600s, it has also been used figuratively to suggest a defenselessness against non-physical attacks. In other words, someone (or something) can be vulnerable to criticism or failure as well as to literal wounding. When it is used figuratively, "vulnerable" is often followed by the preposition "to."

Examples of vulnerable in a Sentence

He was very vulnerable after his divorce. The troops were in a vulnerable position. The fort was undefended and vulnerable.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The crowded center position also could leave Cristiano Felicio vulnerable. K.c. Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Bulls reach terms with Ryan Arcidiacono on a 3-year, $9 million deal and get a commitment from free-agent big man Luke Kornet," 2 July 2019 Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro pointed to the importance of helping vulnerable climate communities, such as those in Puerto Rico still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Mark K. Matthews, Scientific American, "Climate Comes Up at Democratic Debate, But with Few New Details," 27 June 2019 Despite all this, speculative bears continue to claim that excessive debt has left Hong Kong vulnerable to disturbances, such as the recent outcry against the extradition bill. John Greenwood And, WSJ, "Hong Kong’s Economy Is Going Strong," 24 June 2019 Some have speculated that McFarland's continued work in Washington, along with the deep unpopularity of President Harry Truman, left him politically vulnerable in 1952. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "As the GI Bill turns 75, Arizona's Sen. Ernest McFarland is remembered for key role," 21 June 2019 The effects of acid rain, combined with other environmental stressors, leave trees and plants less healthy, more vulnerable to cold temperatures, insects, and disease. National Geographic, "Acid rain, explained," 12 June 2019 That left them vulnerable to being changed by the incoming administration. Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, "Chicken Farmers Thought Trump Was Going to Help Them. Then His Administration Did the Opposite.," 5 June 2019 Southerners have been organizing for a long time to protect the rights of vulnerable communities there, and reproductive access is no exception. Alicia Garza, Marie Claire, "Can We Have a Conversation About Abortion Bans and the South?," 29 May 2019 Yet even today, his seemingly infantile technique leaves him vulnerable to charges of overhyping or charlatanism. Andrew Martin, Harper's magazine, "Not Mere Projection," 10 Mar. 2019

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

circa 1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vulnerable

Late Latin vulnerabilis, from Latin vulnerare to wound, from vulner-, vulnus wound; probably akin to Latin vellere to pluck, Greek oulē wound

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Dictionary Entries near vulnerable

vulgate

vulgus

vulned

vulnerable

vulnerary

vulpecidal

vulpecide

Statistics for vulnerable

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vulnerable

The first known use of vulnerable was circa 1616

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More Definitions for vulnerable

vulnerable

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of vulnerable

: easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
: open to attack, harm, or damage

vulnerable

adjective
vul·​ner·​a·​ble | \ ˈvəl-nə-rə-bəl How to pronounce vulnerable (audio) \

Kids Definition of vulnerable

1 : capable of being easily hurt or injured The patient is vulnerable to infection.
2 : open to attack or damage The troops were in a vulnerable position.

vulnerable

adjective
vul·​ner·​a·​ble | \ ˈvəln-(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl How to pronounce vulnerable (audio) \

Medical Definition of vulnerable

: capable of being hurt : susceptible to injury or disease the liver is itself vulnerable to nutritional impairmentJournal of the American Medical Association

Other Words from vulnerable

vulnerability \ ˌvəln-​(ə-​)rə-​ˈbil-​ət-​ē How to pronounce vulnerability (audio) \ noun, plural vulnerabilities

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