View synonyms for defeat


[ dih-feet ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to overcome in a contest, election, battle, etc.; prevail over; vanquish:

    They defeated the enemy.

    She defeated her brother at tennis.

    Synonyms: subdue, rout, overthrow, overwhelm

  2. Synonyms: balk, baffle, foil

  3. to eliminate or deprive of something expected:

    The early returns defeated his hopes of election.

  4. Law. to annul.


  1. the act of overcoming in a contest:

    an overwhelming defeat of all opposition.

  2. an instance of defeat; setback:

    He considered his defeat a personal affront.

  3. an overthrow or overturning; vanquishment:

    the defeat of a government.

    Synonyms: downfall

  4. a bringing to naught; frustration:

    the defeat of all his hopes and dreams.

  5. the act or event of being bested; a beating:

    Defeat is not something she abides easily.

  6. Archaic. undoing; destruction; ruin.


/ dɪˈfiːt /


  1. to overcome in a contest or competition; win a victory over
  2. to thwart or frustrate

    this accident has defeated all his hopes of winning

  3. law to render null and void; annul


  1. the act of defeating or state of being defeated
  2. an instance of defeat
  3. overthrow or destruction
  4. law an annulment

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Derived Forms

  • deˈfeater, noun

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Other Words From

  • de·feat·er noun
  • non·de·feat noun
  • pre·de·feat noun verb
  • re·de·feat verb noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of defeat1

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English defeten (verb), from Anglo-French, Old French desfait, past participle of desfaire “to undo, destroy,” from Medieval Latin disfacere, equivalent to Latin dis- dis- 1 + facere “to do”

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Word History and Origins

Origin of defeat1

C14: from Old French desfait, from desfaire to undo, ruin, from des- dis- 1+ faire to do, from Latin facere

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Synonym Study

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.

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Example Sentences

His defeat six months later was virtually assured in that moment.

It’s a trade opponents are willing to make, because treating Hill like any other receiver, even any other very good receiver, is inviting defeat.

They’ll win the Pac-12 North with defeats of California and Washington the next two weeks, and probably go to the Fiesta Bowl if they win the league.

Philadelphia responded to that defeat by firing Coach Brett Brown and replacing him with Doc Rivers, who was let go by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Many classified the incident as a catastrophic defeat for the government, but the analysis from the Mexico Violence Resource Project suggests a more nuanced interpretation of the impact of those events.

He rebuffed calls to institute the death penalty, and his last term as governor ended in his defeat.

After the defeat of ISIS in Sinjar, most other locals have been left wondering who might rule the city in the near future.

That defeat was driven largely by Romney losing women voters by an insurmountable 11 points.

In recent days, there has been a subtle feeling of defeat permeating through the camp.

But it certainly contributed, and purposely so, to the defeat of the tough Likud hardliner Yitzhak Shamir in 1992.

He saw Gen. Braddock as he passed on to his defeat, and could give a succinct account of that sanguinary action.

The friars were exceedingly wroth, and combined to defeat the Generalʼs efforts to come to an understanding with the rebels.

He will tell you about the success he had in America; it quite makes up for the defeat of the British army in the Revolution.

But after the defeat at Leipzig King Joachim asked and obtained leave to return to his own dominions.

But she had experienced an hour of mixed emotions in which a confused and wondering sense of defeat was paramount.


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More About Defeat

What does defeat mean?

To defeat someone is to beat them in a competition or contest.

As a noun, a defeat is a loss (as in That was the team’s first defeat of the season) and defeat is the state of having lost (as in the agony of defeat).

In most cases, the verb beat is a close synonym for defeat, but defeat is more formal (you can beat or defeat someone in a game, but a nation defeats another in war).

As a verb, defeat can also mean to thwart or prevent something from happening, but this is less commonly used.

Example: The Allies defeated the Axis powers in World War II. 

Where does defeat come from?

The first records of defeat in English come from the 1300s. It comes from the Old French verb desfaire, meaning “to undo” or “to destroy.” It ultimately derives from the Medieval Latin disfacere, from dis, which indicates a negation or reversal, and facere, “to do.”

Those who have been defeated in competition have been undone by their opponents—they’ve been bested or beaten (or even destroyed, if the defeat was a decisive one). Defeat can be used in situations large and small, serious and unimportant: a game of rock-paper-scissors, a championship series, or a war.

A team or athlete who has never lost is often described as undefeated. But that’s rare. Most people who engage in competition, especially in sports, have experienced defeat, and they know it can hurt (that’s the agony in the common expression the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat). Those who have been defeated might even feel defeated, which is an adjective referring to the hopeless feeling you can get when you don’t achieve what you wanted to. If a person continues to feel this way all the time, they may develop a defeatist attitude—meaning they never expect to win.

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What are some other forms related to defeat?

  • defeater (noun)
  • defeated (adjective, past tense verb)

What are some synonyms for defeat?

What are some words that share a root or word element with defeat

What are some words that often get used in discussing defeat?

How is defeat used in real life?

Defeat is commonly used in sports and in other situations involving direct competition with a measurable outcome. In all of its senses, defeat is negative (except of course for the person doing the defeating).



Try using defeat!

Is defeat used correctly in the following sentence? 

He was gracious even in defeat.