vulnerable

adjective
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

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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 That’s not to say marginalized tenants don’t face exploitation, Lee said, since some predatory landlords take advantage of vulnerable, undocumented and limited-English-speaking immigrants. NBC News, 18 Oct. 2021 Many Democrats fear the United States cannot afford to wait to curb climate change, help more women enter the work force and invest in feeding and educating its most vulnerable children. New York Times, 17 Oct. 2021 Alexander was the youngest Roman emperor ever up to that point, and most of the 20 or so surviving ancient portraits of him (or believed to be of him) depict a rather dreamy, almost vulnerable, youth. Mary Beard, WSJ, 16 Oct. 2021 As part of an aggressive strategy to protect a vulnerable and isolated health care system, Alaska was testing thousands of asymptomatic seafood workers and travelers coming into the state. Annie Berman, Anchorage Daily News, 16 Oct. 2021 There’s no question that deaths were most common among old and vulnerable individuals early in the pandemic. Darius Lakdawalla, STAT, 16 Oct. 2021 She is injured, vulnerable, but will never give up. Gabrielle Chung, PEOPLE.com, 14 Oct. 2021 Voices for Children is always seeking CASA volunteers who have a passion for helping the community’s vulnerable children. San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Oct. 2021 North Koreans living under strict pandemic restrictions are facing a growing food crisis, and the most vulnerable children and elderly people in the isolated Asian nation are at risk of starvation, a U.N. investigator said. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 14 Oct. 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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Dictionary Entries Near vulnerable

vulned

vulnerable

vulnerary

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

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

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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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