Definition of defeat in English:

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Pronunciation: /dəˈfēt/


[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.
baffle, perplex, bewilder, mystify, bemuse, confuse, confound, throw
informal beat, flummox, faze, stump
1.5 Law Render null and void; annul.
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.


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;
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'.

  • Early recorded senses were ‘undo, destroy, annul’; it goes back to medieval Latin disfacere ‘undo’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·feat

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