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[dih-feet] /dɪˈfit/
verb (used with object)
to overcome in a contest, election, battle, etc.; prevail over; vanquish:
They defeated the enemy. She defeated her brother at tennis.
to frustrate; thwart.
to eliminate or deprive of something expected:
The early returns defeated his hopes of election.
Law. to annul.
the act of overcoming in a contest:
an overwhelming defeat of all opposition.
an instance of defeat; setback:
He considered his defeat a personal affront.
an overthrow or overturning; vanquishment:
the defeat of a government.
a bringing to naught; frustration:
the defeat of all his hopes and dreams.
the act or event of being bested; losing:
Defeat is not something she abides easily.
Archaic. undoing; destruction; ruin.
Origin of defeat
1325-75; Middle English defeten (v.) < Anglo-French, Old French desfait, past participle of desfaire to undo, destroy < Medieval Latin disfacere, equivalent to Latin dis- dis-1 + facere to do
Related forms
defeater, noun
nondefeat, noun
predefeat, noun, verb
quasi-defeated, adjective
redefeat, verb, noun
undefeated, adjective
undefeatedly, adverb
undefeatedness, noun
1. overwhelm, overthrow, rout, check. 2. foil, baffle, balk. 7. downfall.
Synonym Study
1.Defeat, conquer, overcome, subdue imply gaining a victory or control over an opponent. Defeat suggests beating or frustrating: to defeat an enemy in battle. Conquer implies finally gaining control over, usually after a series of efforts or against systematic resistance: to conquer a country, one's inclinations. Overcome emphasizes surmounting difficulties in prevailing over an antagonist: to overcome opposition, bad habits. Subdue means to conquer so completely that resistance is broken: to subdue a rebellious spirit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for defeat
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then there came upon him to reinforce this want a burning sense of defeat.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • In my lifetime—in depression and in war—they have awaited our defeat.

  • You know what you have to expect from the Syracusans, if this last struggle should end in defeat.

  • Yes, they were wolves leaping at the throat of her father, and joying in the defeat of Lucretia.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • Lucretia's defeat in the Handicap had increased his despondency.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
British Dictionary definitions for defeat


verb (transitive)
to overcome in a contest or competition; win a victory over
to thwart or frustrate: this accident has defeated all his hopes of winning
(law) to render null and void; annul
the act of defeating or state of being defeated
an instance of defeat
overthrow or destruction
(law) an annulment
Derived Forms
defeater, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French desfait, from desfaire to undo, ruin, from des-dis-1 + faire to do, from Latin facere
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for defeat

late 14c., from Anglo-French defeter, from Old French desfait, past participle of desfaire "to undo," from Vulgar Latin *diffacere "undo, destroy," from Latin dis- "un-, not" (see dis-) + facere "to do, perform" (see factitious). Original sense was of "bring ruination, cause destruction." Military sense of "conquer" is c.1600. Related: Defeated; defeating.


1590s, from defeat (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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