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verb (used with object), dis·a·bled, dis·a·bling.
  1. to make unable or unfit; weaken or destroy the capability of; incapacitate: The detective successfully disabled the bomb. He was disabled by the accident.
  2. to make legally incapable; disqualify.
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Origin of disable

First recorded in 1475–85; dis-1 + able
Related formsdis·a·ble·ment, noundis·a·bler, noun


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for disable

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I must disable this machinery and give the tug a chance to escape.

  • And he repeats the Arabic proverb in broken Arabic, “A drop of pus will disable a camel.”

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • Now he had to make another when her threat was not to kill him but to disable the ship.

    Pariah Planet

    Murray Leinster

  • But how do you disable a smooth-surfaced turtle-backed machine?

  • Running over a floating log might disable our propeller, and we should be helpless then.

    Up the River

    Oliver Optic

British Dictionary definitions for disable


verb (tr)
  1. to make ineffective, unfit, or incapable, as by crippling
  2. to make or pronounce legally incapable
  3. to switch off (an electronic device)
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Derived Formsdisablement, noun
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 disable


mid-15c., from dis- "do the opposite of" + ablen (v.) "to make fit" (see able). Related: Disabled; disabling. Earlier in the same sense was unable (v.) "make unfit, render unsuitable" (c.1400).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper