[ ek-sploit, ik-sploit ]
/ ˈɛk splɔɪt, ɪkˈsplɔɪt /
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See synonyms for: exploit / exploited / exploiting / exploits on Thesaurus.com

a striking or notable deed; feat; spirited or heroic act: the exploits of Alexander the Great.
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Origin of exploit

1350–1400; Middle English exploit, espleit<Old French exploit,Anglo-French espleit<Latin explicitum, neuter of explicitus (past participle). See explicit

synonym study for exploit

Other definitions for exploit (2 of 2)

[ verb ik-sploit; noun eks-ploit, ik-sploit ]
/ verb ɪkˈsplɔɪt; noun ˈɛks plɔɪt, ɪkˈsplɔɪt /

verb (used with object)
to utilize, especially for profit; turn to practical account: to exploit a business opportunity.
to use selfishly for one's own ends: employers who exploit their workers.
to advance or further through exploitation; promote: He exploited his new movie through a series of guest appearances.
noun Digital Technology.
  1. a flaw in hardware or software that is vulnerable to hacking or other cyberattacks.
  2. a piece of software that takes advantage of such a flaw to compromise a computer system or network.
(in a video game) the use of a bug or flaw in game design to a player’s advantage or to the disadvantage of other players.

Origin of exploit

First recorded in 1300–50; from French exploiter, derivative of exploit (noun); replacing late Middle English expleiten “to achieve,” from Anglo-French, Middle French espleiter, espleitier, derivative of espleit, esploit, expleit, exploit (noun), from Latin explicitum “matter settled, displayed,” noun use of past participle explicitus, from explicāre “to unfold, unroll, smooth, reveal”; see exploit1


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does exploit mean?

As a verb, exploit commonly means to selfishly take advantage of someone in order to profit from them or otherwise benefit oneself. As a noun, exploit means a notable or heroic accomplishment.

As a verb, exploit can also be used in a more neutral way that doesn’t imply selfishness: to make the best use of something, especially an opportunity, to create a profit or other benefit. But when the verb is applied to people, it is always used negatively. The noun form of the verb exploit is exploitation, and the adjective form is exploitative, as in exploitative practices. 

Example: I know you’re trying to live up to the exploits and success of your father, but exploiting your workers to maximize profit is not the way to do it.

Where does exploit come from?

Exploit has been used as a noun meaning “achievement” since at least the 1300s. It derives from the Latin explicātus, meaning “unfolded” or “set forth.” The first records of exploit as a verb also come from the 1300s, but it wasn’t until around the 1800s that it started to be used to refer to extracting natural resources from the earth, and then to using someone or something for one’s own selfish ends.

Today, the verb exploit is often used negatively, especially when it refers to taking advantage of people. It is often used in the context of businesses exploiting their workers by underpaying and overworking them. In a more neutral sense, exploit can simply mean to use something for a benefit, as in We should exploit every opportunity we have to promote our product. 

When used as a noun meaning “accomplishment,” exploit is usually used positively. It is especially used in the plural to refer to acts that are considered heroic and are well known, as in His athletic exploits made him famous around the world. Similar terms are deed and feat.

In the specific context of computing and especially software, an exploit is a bug or flaw in a system that makes it vulnerable to attack. A piece of software that takes advantage of such a flaw can also be called an exploit. In video games, players who’ve found an exploit can use it to take advantage of other players. Relatedly, the verb sense of exploit is sometimes used in this way, as in Hackers exploited the security hole to steal data.

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How is exploit used in real life?

As a verb, exploit is commonly used in a negative way, especially in the context of workers who are being exploited for profit. As a noun, it often refers to the achievements of a famous person, such as an athlete.



Try using exploit!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of exploit meaning “accomplishment”?

A. achievement
B. feat
C. deed
D. failure

How to use exploit in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for exploit


noun (ˈɛksplɔɪt)
a notable deed or feat, esp one that is noble or heroic
verb (ɪkˈsplɔɪt) (tr)
to take advantage of (a person, situation, etc), esp unethically or unjustly for one's own ends
to make the best use ofto exploit natural resources

Derived forms of exploit

exploitable, adjectiveexploitation, nounexploitive or exploitative, adjective

Word Origin for exploit

C14: from Old French: accomplishment, from Latin explicitum (something) unfolded, from explicāre to explicate
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