[ dih-feet ]
/ dɪˈfit /
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See synonyms for: defeat / defeated / defeating / defeats on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
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Origin of defeat

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”

synonym study for defeat

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.


de·feat·er, nounnon·de·feat, nounpre·de·feat, noun, verbre·de·feat, verb, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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.

How to use defeat in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for defeat

/ (dɪˈfiːt) /

verb (tr)
to overcome in a contest or competition; win a victory over
to thwart or frustratethis accident has defeated all his hopes of winning
law to render null and void; annul

Derived forms of defeat

defeater, noun

Word Origin for defeat

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