vul·​ner·​a·​ble | \ ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl How to pronounce vulnerable (audio) , ˈvəl-nər-bəl \

Essential Meaning of vulnerable

1 : easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally a vulnerable young woman He was very vulnerable after his divorce.
2 : open to attack, harm, or damage The troops were in a vulnerable position. The fort was undefended and vulnerable.

Full 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The system of aging power turbines and pumps, critical to removing storm water from the low-lying city, is so old that Thomas Edison consulted on its design; it was long known to be vulnerable. Julie Bykowicz, WSJ, 12 Jan. 2022 Those unable to pay for treatment at for-profit centers are particularly vulnerable, according to the filing. Michael Tarm, ajc, 11 Jan. 2022 But many workers are vulnerable, particularly those in the low income bracket., 10 Jan. 2022 The Steelers rank 12th in pass defense and are vulnerable in the secondary, where players such as cornerback Cameron Sutton and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick have not played up to their 2020 standards. Childs Walker,, 6 Jan. 2022 But the union argued that the district’s safety protocols are lacking and both teachers and students are vulnerable. NBC News, 5 Jan. 2022 Now, that doesn't mean it can't be transmitted to somebody else who is vulnerable. Megan Leonhardt, Fortune, 5 Jan. 2022 As law enforcement around the country cracks down on an opioid and fentanyl epidemic of tragic proportions, informants who are users are particularly vulnerable. Jacob Biba, The New Republic, 4 Jan. 2022 Further, many companies and governments are still vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to their use of outdated technology, processes, and protocols. Emil Sayegh, Forbes, 4 Jan. 2022

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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The first known use of vulnerable was circa 1616

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Vulnerable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for vulnerable


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.


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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