Definition of vulnerable
- vulnerable to criticism
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He was very vulnerable after his divorce.
The troops were in a vulnerable position.
The fort was undefended and vulnerable.
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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."
First Known Use: 1605See Words from the same year
: easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally
: open to attack, harm, or damage
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