Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To win victory over; beat.
  • transitive v. To prevent the success of; thwart: Internal strife defeats the purpose of teamwork.
  • transitive v. Law To make void; annul.
  • n. The act of defeating or state of being defeated.
  • n. Failure to win.
  • n. A coming to naught; frustration: the defeat of a lifelong dream.
  • n. Law The act of making null and void.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To overcome in battle or contest.
  • v. To nullify; to reduce, to nothing, the strength of.
  • n. The act of defeating or being defeated.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To undo; to disfigure; to destroy.
  • transitive v. To render null and void, as a title; to frustrate, as hope; to deprive, as of an estate.
  • transitive v. To overcome or vanquish, as an army; to check, disperse, or ruin by victory; to overthrow.
  • transitive v. To resist with success.
  • n. An undoing or annulling; destruction.
  • n. Frustration by rendering null and void, or by prevention of success.
  • n. An overthrow, as of an army in battle; loss of a battle; repulse suffered; discomfiture; -- opposed to victory.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To undo; do away with; deprive of vigor, prosperity, health, life, or value; ruin; destroy.
  • [In the last extract there is perhaps an allusion to defeature, 2.]
  • Specifically In law, to annul; render null and void: as, to defeat a title to an estate. See defeasance, 3.
  • To deprive of something expected, desired, or striven for, by some antagonistic action or influence: applied to persons.
  • To frustrate; prevent the success of; make of no effect; thwart: applied to things.
  • To overcome in a contest of any kind, as a battle, fight, game, debate, competition, or election; vanquish; conquer; overthrow; rout; beat: as, to defeat an army; to defeat an opposing candidate; to defeat one's opponent at chess.
  • Synonyms Beat, Overpower, Overwhelm, Defeat, Discomfit, Rout, Overthrow, conquer. Beat is a general, somewhat indefinite, but vigorous word, covering the others. Overpower and overwhelm are the least discreditable to the one that loses in the struggle; overpower is least permanent in its effects. To overpower is to overcome by superiority of strength or numbers, but the disadvantage may be changed by the arrival of reinforcements. To overwhelm is to bear down utterly, to sweep clear away by superior strength. Defeat is to overcome or get the better of in some kind of contest, and implies less discredit, but generally greater disaster, to the defeated party than beat: as, that army is considered beaten which withdraws from the field. Defeat implies a serious disadvantage, because it applies more often to large numbers engaged. Discomfit has fallen into comparative disuse, except in its secondary sense of foiling, etc.; in that it expresses a comparatively complete and mortifying defeat. Rout is to defeat and drive off the field in confusion. Overthrow is the most decisive and final of these words; it naturally applies only to great persons, concerns, armies, etc. See conquer.
  • n. An undoing; ruin; destruction.
  • n. In law, the act of annulling, or of rendering null and void; annulment: as, the defeat of a title.
  • n. The act of depriving a person of something expected, desired, or striven for, by some antagonistic action or influence.
  • n. The act or result of overcoming in a contest, viewed with reference to the person overcome; overthrow; vanquishment; rout: as, to inflict a severe defeat upon the enemy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. thwart the passage of
  • v. win a victory over
  • n. the feeling that accompanies an experience of being thwarted in attaining your goals
  • n. an unsuccessful ending to a struggle or contest

Etymologies

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 Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
from Old French desfait, from the verb desfaire Latin des + faciō (to unmake). (Wiktionary)

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