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 vulnerable (audio) \ noun
vulnerableness \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce vulnerable (audio) , ˈvəl-​nər-​bəl-​ \ noun
vulnerably \ ˈvəl-​n(ə-​)rə-​blē How to pronounce vulnerable (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 Alaska’s death rate per capita is among the lowest in the country, though the state’s size and vulnerable health care system complicate national comparisons. Anchorage Daily News, "Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 1 death and 159 new cases reported Tuesday," 12 Jan. 2021 What was left was a weakened running game, a vulnerable defense and passing game that couldn’t keep up. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "What Ohio State’s blowout loss to Alabama tells you about the Buckeyes: Doug Lesmerises," 12 Jan. 2021 After a layer of vitamin C serum (which can make skin more vulnerable to light exposure), and generally, apply a daily broad-spectrum UVA/UVB coverage to protect your complexion from the sun damage. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "The Ultimate Beauty Basics for Men: From Skin Care to No-Makeup Makeup," 11 Jan. 2021 The International Union for Conservation of Nature has moved the European bison from vulnerable to near threatened, reflecting decades of dogged conservation work. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "Points of Progress: Denmark ends hunt for oil deposits, and more," 8 Jan. 2021 The state sent more than 1,000 vulnerable children to out-of-state facilities run by a for-profit company. Taylor Kate Brown, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Briefing: Encouraged by Trump, mob attacks Congress," 7 Jan. 2021 Who needed it before quarantine, and became even more vulnerable during quarantine. Aris Roussinos, Harpers Magazine, "The Armies of the Right," 5 Jan. 2021 And as elderly people in Florida and Georgia wait overnight in lawn chairs at pop-up sites, other vulnerable Americans -- or quite often, their tech-savvy children -- are spending hours refreshing computer screens. Jonathan Levin, Fortune, "Local officials resort to party-invite sites for vaccine rollout," 5 Jan. 2021 Attorneys for the former employees say their clients were looking out for Bashinsky, aiming to protect her at a vulnerable time. Ivana Hrynkiw | Ihrynkiw@al.com, al, "Joann Bashinsky, widow of Golden Flake CEO, dies at 89," 5 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for vulnerable

Time Traveler

The first known use of vulnerable was circa 1616

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Statistics for vulnerable

Last Updated

17 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Vulnerable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vulnerable. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for vulnerable

vulnerable

adjective
How to pronounce vulnerable (audio)

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 vulnerable (audio) \ noun, plural vulnerabilities

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