• synonyms


[verb dee-foh-lee-eyt; adjective dee-foh-lee-it, -eyt]
See more synonyms for defoliate on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), de·fo·li·at·ed, de·fo·li·at·ing.
  1. to strip (a tree, bush, etc.) of leaves.
  2. to destroy or cause widespread loss of leaves in (an area of jungle, forest, etc.), as by using chemical sprays or incendiary bombs, in order to deprive enemy troops or guerrilla forces of concealment.
Show More
verb (used without object), de·fo·li·at·ed, de·fo·li·at·ing.
  1. to lose leaves.
Show More
  1. (of a tree) having lost its leaves, especially by a natural process.
Show More

Origin of defoliate

1785–1795; < Medieval Latin dēfoliātus, past participle of dēfoliāre, equivalent to Latin dē- de- + foli(um) leaf + -ātus -ate1
Related formsde·fo·li·a·tion, nounde·fo·li·a·tor, nounun·de·fo·li·at·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for defoliation

confusion, desolation, ruin, havoc, ravages, ruination, loss, pillage, plunder, depredation, waste, demolition, defoliation, spoliation

Examples from the Web for defoliation

Historical Examples of defoliation

  • Defoliation of seedlings and bearing trees often occurs in July and August.

    Soil Culture

    J. H. Walden

  • Also shriveled kernels are the result of defoliation by early frosts which may be very local and affect some trees and not others.

  • Therefore, trees deprived of their foliage are liable to perish, and they are injured in proportion to their defoliation.

    Soil Culture

    J. H. Walden

  • Caterpillars, grubs, and beetles specialize on defoliation and feed upon the leaves, the lungs of the trees.

  • The aphids were very numerous and unfortunately caused the defoliation of all the currants with the exception of the blacks.

British Dictionary definitions for defoliation


verb (diːˈfəʊlɪˌeɪt)
  1. to deprive (a plant) of its leaves, as by the use of a herbicide, or (of a plant) to shed its leaves
Show More
adjective (diːˈfəʊlɪɪt)
  1. (of a plant) having shed its leaves
Show More
Derived Formsdefoliation, noundefoliator, noun

Word Origin for defoliate

C18: from Medieval Latin dēfoliāre, from Latin de- + folium leaf
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

Word Origin and History for defoliation


1650s, noun of action from past participle stem of Late Latin defoliare "shed leaves," from de- (see de-) + folium "leaf" (see folio).

Show More



1793, perhaps a back-formation from defoliation. Earlier in this sense was defoil (c.1600). Related: Defoliated; defoliating.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper