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

And a sustained growth pullback would leave the economy more vulnerable to unhappy surprises, increasing the risk that a global event or domestic political drama will ignite an all-out recession. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, "Recession or Slowdown? Why You Should Care About the Difference," 13 Sep. 2019 What was cynical and ironized, at the start, becomes earnest, direct, vulnerable, even hopeful. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "James Gray’s Journey from the Outer Boroughs to Outer Space," 9 Sep. 2019 Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. NBC News, "Dorian pushes north near Florida with Georgia, Carolinas on high alert," 4 Sep. 2019 Besides being the most vulnerable, after all, the biggest trees are the slowest to regrow. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "Sturdy as they are, giant trees are particularly susceptible to these three killers," 4 Sep. 2019 Pregnant women and babies are especially vulnerable, as even low levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems. Molly Enking, WIRED, "Flint, Newark, and the Persistent Crisis of Lead in Water," 28 Aug. 2019 And people who are dedicated to defending the most vulnerable, particularly LGBTQ+ people, women, and people of color. Melanie Hamlett, Glamour, "Designing Women Was a Series Ahead of Its Time. In 2019, It’s Still Revolutionary," 26 Aug. 2019 Mr Subay says his figure is meant to stand for an entire country—vulnerable, voiceless—that no one seems to care about. C.a.r., The Economist, "The street artist capturing the impact of the war in Yemen," 19 Aug. 2019 The stress caused by low salinity could be making the oysters more vulnerable to another type of problem, so technicians at Horn Point Hatchery have been experimenting with various possible new angles. Julia Rentsch, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland oysters are having a bad year, and here’s why," 18 Aug. 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

12 Oct 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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