Definition of defeat in English:


Syllabification: de·feat
Pronunciation: /diˈfēt


[with object]
  • 1Win a victory over (someone) in a battle or other contest; overcome or beat: Arab armies defeated the Byzantine garrison
    More example sentences
    • The rebels were defeated at the battle of Sedgemoor.
    • In 1715, Jacobite rebels were defeated at the battle of Preston.
    • The Egyptian army was defeated at the battle of Tell el-Kebir.
    beat, conquer, win against, triumph over, get the better of, vanquish; rout, trounce, overcome, overpower, crush, subdue
    informal lick, thrash, whip, wipe the floor with, make mincemeat of, clobber, slaughter, demolish, cream, skunk, nose out
  • 1.1Prevent (someone) from achieving an aim: she was defeated by the last steep hill
    More example sentences
    • I could let the discomfort and frustration defeat me, as they sometimes had, or I could accept them as a necessary part of getting better.
    • If this education stopped with us, the ultimate aim of HIV / AIDS prevention would be defeated.
    • Matthew Hoy of Hoystory writes to tell me that the Democrats actually filibustered Lee to prevent the Republicans from defeating his nomination.
    thwart, frustrate, foil, ruin, scotch, debar, derail; obstruct, impede, hinder, hamper
    informal put the kibosh on, stymie, scuttle
  • 1.2Prevent (an aim) from being achieved: don’t cheat by allowing your body to droop—this defeats the object of the exercise
    More example sentences
    • The closure of a further service facility in rural areas will completely defeat this aim.
    • I, of course, prefer giving the constitution's limits effect over a restraint that defeat the constitution's aim.
    • Thirdly, it is the accused himself who, by drinking after the event, defeats the aim of the legislature by doing something which makes the scientific test potentially unreliable.
  • 1.3Reject or block (a motion or proposal): the amendment was defeated
    More example sentences
    • The counter proposal was defeated by 6 votes to 2.
    • When it was initially proposed early in 2001, the motion was defeated by the combined votes of the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors.
    • It was a clever stratagem for defeating the tax proposals without incurring the popular odium for doing so.
    reject, overthrow, throw out, dismiss, outvote, turn down
    informal give the thumbs down
  • 1.4Be impossible for (someone) to understand: this line of reasoning defeats me, I must confess
    More example sentences
    • Every time you think you have a handle on it, you are simply defeated by the impossible vastness of even the smallest aspects of space.
    • For reasons that defeat us, The Road Goes On Forever has been out of print for 20 years.
    • While some may see this as an instance of human narcissism defeating scientific understanding, we would do better to see it as a reason for tempering the narcissism of science.
  • 1.5 Law Render null and void; annul.
    More example sentences
    • Before the Act, of course, a finding of contributory negligence defeated the claim altogether.
    • In each case the insured defendant failed to defeat the claim and in each his liability to the plaintiff exceeded the limit of the indemnity provided.
    • The Plaintiff maintains that those transfers were intended to defeat the Plaintiff.


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  • An instance of defeating or being defeated: the defeat of the Armada in 1588 she had still not quite admitted defeat
    More example sentences
    • They have made no progress between their landslide defeat in the 1997 election and their second defeat in 2001.
    • The two election defeats were put down to an inability to convince the electorate that they could be trusted with the nation's finances.
    • It's not helped by an Opposition that has failed to respect its time-honoured tradition of turning on and devouring itself after successive election defeats.
    loss, conquest, vanquishment; rout, trouncing; downfall
    informal thrashing, hiding, drubbing, licking, pasting, massacre, slaughter, beatdown
    failure, downfall, collapse, ruin; rejection, frustration, abortion, miscarriage; undoing, reverse


late Middle English (in the sense 'undo, destroy, annul'): from Old French desfait 'undone', past participle of desfaire, from medieval Latin disfacere 'undo'.

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