vulnerable

adjective
vul·​ner·​a·​ble | \ ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl , 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 \ noun
vulnerableness \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​bəl-​nəs , ˈvəl-​nər-​bəl-​ \ noun
vulnerably \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​blē , 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

Research backs him up: A study published in the journal Sleep found that even one night of sleep deprivation made patients more vulnerable to heat loss. Colleen Stinchcombe, Woman's Day, "Why Am I Always Cold?," 16 Oct. 2018 Marine mammals around geographic bottlenecks, like the Bering Strait and the eastern Canadian Arctic, were as much as three times more vulnerable than populations in more remote areas, according to the study. Adam Aton, Scientific American, "Ships Threaten Arctic Marine Mammals," 3 July 2018 Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults, and exposure to lead can severely stunt a child’s intellectual and physical development. Anne Branigin, The Root, "New York City Finally Admits that More than 800 Kids Living in Public Housing Tested High for Lead," 2 July 2018 The county has invested in various flood mitigation efforts, but the loss of the wetlands could negate the benefits of the improvements and leave the area more vulnerable to floods, according to the letter. Frank Abderholden, Lake County News-Sun, "'Our wetlands are not for sale': More than 200 rally against Foxconn development," 28 June 2018 Laws restricting gun ownership may soon become more vulnerable to court challenges. Bob Egelko, SFChronicle.com, "Kennedy’s departure opens questions about the future of abortion rights," 27 June 2018 Carlos Uresti has exemplified service in his passion to protect the most vulnerable members of our community in Bexar County and throughout Texas. Patrick Danner, San Antonio Express-News, "Prosecutors want Uresti to serve at least 17½ years in prison," 25 June 2018 Poorer, more vulnerable populations are likely to bear the worst of it, which will further limit their ability to adapt to climate change and protect themselves. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "The economic impacts of climate change could limit climate change," 19 Dec. 2018 And the bonds are still spread throughout the financial system, which would be vulnerable to another American housing collapse. Jeff Andrews, Curbed, "10 years after the financial crisis, is the housing market still at risk?," 29 Aug. 2018

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

2 Feb 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 \

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 \

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 \ noun, plural -ties

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