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

The more power women gain to hold men accountable, which is what #MeToo is about, the more vulnerable men feel their status and power really are. Anna North, Vox, "Women made historic gains in 2018. But in so many ways, it was still the Year of the Man.," 27 Dec. 2018 Because the first group used unobfuscated JavaScript, the skimmer is much more vulnerable to tampering by rivals. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "E-commerce site is infected not by one, but two card skimmers," 20 Nov. 2018 These southern fires are given a helping hand by the Santa Anas, winds that originate inland and historically have made areas of the state more vulnerable to fires. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Horrific Fires Devastate California Up and Down Coast," 9 Nov. 2018 To try to be a strong voice for the people who are more vulnerable—the kids and families who lost everything—is the most important thing. Noor Brara, Vogue, "At the New York City Marathon, a Young Olympian Runs for Puerto Rico," 2 Nov. 2018 Marine animals like fish are more vulnerable to population crashes. Carl Zimmer, The Seattle Times, "In the sea, a big appetite for jellyfish," 26 Oct. 2018 Princeton University hurricane expert Gabriel Vecchi says storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the few people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable. Seth Borenstein, Fox News, "Nature's fury comes out differently in Florence and Mangkhut," 15 Sep. 2018 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

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

16 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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