adjective vul·ner·a·ble \ ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl , ˈvəl-nər-bəl \
|Updated on: 6 Jul 2018

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


play \ˌvəl-n(ə-)rə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl-nəs, ˈvəl-nər-bəl-\ noun


play \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-blē, ˈvəl-nər-blē\ adverb

vulnerable was our Word of the Day on 04/16/2018. Hear the podcast!

Examples of vulnerable in a Sentence

  1. He was very vulnerable after his divorce.

  2. The troops were in a vulnerable position.

  3. The fort was undefended and vulnerable.

Recent Examples of vulnerable from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of vulnerable

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

VULNERABLE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of vulnerable for English Language Learners

  • : easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally

  • : open to attack, harm, or damage

VULNERABLE Defined for Kids


adjective vul·ner·a·ble \ ˈvəl-nə-rə-bəl \

Definition of vulnerable for Students

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.

Medical Dictionary


adjective vul·ner·a·ble \ ˈvəln-(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl \

medical Definition of vulnerable

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


play \ˌvəln-(ə-)rə-ˈbil-ət-ē\ noun, plural -ties

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