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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — debilitate

Good morning, Netizens...

December 26, 2012

Word of the Day

  • debilitate
  • audio pronunciation
  • \dih-BIL-uh-tayt\


: to impair the strength of

The flu debilitated him and left him bedridden for several days.

"Hard hits are part of the game. But vicious hits intended to debilitate a player, maybe end his career, are intolerable." — From an article in the Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2012


"Debilitate," "enfeeble," "undermine," and "sap" all share in common the general sense "to weaken." But while "debilitate" holds the distinction among these words of coming from the Latin word for "weak"—"debilis"—it packs a potent punch. Often used of disease or something that strikes like a disease or illness, "debilitate" might suggest a temporary impairment, but a pervasive one. "Enfeeble," a very close synonym of "debilitate," connotes a pitiable, but often reversible, condition of weakness and helplessness. "Undermine" and "sap" suggest a weakening by something working surreptitiously and insidiously.

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.