tr.v. de·feat·ed, de·feat·ing, de·feats
1. To do better than (another) in a competition or battle; win victory over; beat: "Whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same" (Thomas Paine).
2. To prevent the success of; thwart: Internal strife defeats the purpose of teamwork.
a. To frustrate the enforcement of (a motion, for example).
b. To make (an estate, for example) void; annul.
a. To dishearten or dispirit: The last setback defeated her, and she gave up.
b. To be beyond the comprehension of; mystify: How the children found their way back home defeats me.
a. The act of defeating an opponent: the home team's defeat of their rivals.
b. The state of being defeated; failure to win: the home team's defeat by their rivals.
2. A coming to naught; frustration: the defeat of a lifelong dream.
a. The act of overcoming or frustrating the enforcement of.
b. Law The act of making null and void.
[Middle English defeten, from defet, disfigured, from Old French desfait, past participle of desfaire, to destroy, from Medieval Latin disfacere, to destroy, mutilate, undo : Latin dis-, dis- + Latin facere, to do; see dhē- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: defeat, beat, conquer, rout1, vanquish
These verbs mean to triumph over an adversary: defeated the opposing team by fourteen points; beat her competitor in the race for first place; conquered the enemy after a long battle; routed all opposition due to a brilliant strategy; vanquished the marauding army in a surprise attack.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.