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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The argument goes like this: if student loans get canceled, particularly for financially vulnerable student loan borrowers, there’s less need to extend the student loan payment pause again. Zack Friedman, Forbes, 15 May 2022 Nearly a year later, an investigation by NBC News and the Texas Tribune found that the grid remained vulnerable, with new regulations allowing companies to avoid the improvements. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, 14 May 2022 Trump's top focus in Pennsylvania has been the Senate primary, where his endorsed candidate, celebrity heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, is seen as vulnerable. Marc Levy, ajc, 14 May 2022 The New York Times analyzed 25 months of data on deaths during the pandemic and found that some demographic groups, occupations and communities were far more vulnerable than others. New York Times, 14 May 2022 Beasley also warned that missing food exports from Ukraine are adding to preexisting food insecurity affecting the world’s more vulnerable regions this year, including the pandemic, severe weather events, and droughts hurting harvests. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 13 May 2022 Baby formula particularly vulnerable to disruptions because just a handful of companies account for almost the entire U.S. supply. oregonlive, 13 May 2022 Its seeming lack of a vaccination program makes its people more vulnerable to severe infections and death. Time, 13 May 2022 While some of these journalists have come with their family members, others have had to leave Afghanistan on their own, which puts them in a vulnerable situation, especially in Pakistan, according to Sayedzada. Somayeh Malekian, ABC News, 13 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of vulnerable was circa 1616

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Dictionary Entries Near vulnerable

vulned

vulnerable

vulnerary

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vulnerable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vulnerable. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for vulnerable

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

More from Merriam-Webster on vulnerable

Nglish: Translation of vulnerable for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of vulnerable for Arabic Speakers

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