Definition of defeat in English:



  • 1Win a victory over (someone) in a battle or other contest; overcome or beat.

    ‘Garibaldi defeated the Neapolitan army’
    • ‘At Lewes, on May 14th, 1264, he defeated Henry III in battle.’
    • ‘The rebels were defeated at the battle of Sedgemoor.’
    • ‘In 1715, Jacobite rebels were defeated at the battle of Preston.’
    • ‘Unlike conventional warfare, they are not seeking to take territory or defeat us in open battle.’
    • ‘The Allies defeated him in battle over the course of the next two years, and finally, on March 31, 1814, Paris fell.’
    • ‘She was an Amazon warrior queen before Theseus defeated her in battle, also winning her heart.’
    • ‘From page he became confidential emissary to James, and in 1685 after playing a decisive part in defeating Monmouth's rebel army he became a major-general.’
    • ‘When William defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it changed the future of English forever.’
    • ‘Henry Tudor succeeded to the throne in 1485, after defeating Richard in the Battle of Bosworth.’
    • ‘The Egyptian army was defeated at the battle of Tell el-Kebir.’
    • ‘On an incursion into Northumberland, he was defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge.’
    • ‘Brooks scored his first Atlanta Dragway victory when he defeated Steve Adams in the Super Pro final.’
    • ‘There was nothing like the feeling of meeting another in battle, the power of wielding a sword, and the victory of defeating the enemy.’
    • ‘After defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings, William gained control over England by the use of the Feudal System.’
    • ‘Sun Tzu says defeating the enemy without battle requires greater skill than winning on the battlefield.’
    • ‘The Prussian army invaded Baden, defeated the rebels, and forced the last remnants of the German revolution to capitulate in the fortress of Rastatt on 23 July.’
    • ‘Ecgberht had blood claims on the kingdom of the West Saxons and probably Kent; he became briefly king of the Mercians after defeating their king in battle.’
    • ‘In 1644, the Royalist troops were defeated in the battle of Marston Moor.’
    • ‘I am defeating you in this battle and you perfectly know it’ said Mareki with a smile.’
    • ‘Regular troops can also attain better experience levels by surviving battles and defeating enemies.’
    beat, conquer, win against, win a victory over, triumph over, prevail over, get the better of, best, worst, vanquish
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Prevent (someone) from achieving an aim.
      ‘she was defeated by the last steep hill’
      • ‘Matthew Hoy of Hoystory writes to tell me that the Democrats actually filibustered Lee to prevent the Republicans from defeating his nomination.’
      • ‘If this education stopped with us, the ultimate aim of HIV / AIDS prevention would be defeated.’
      • ‘Such efforts present African Americans frustrated but not defeated by circumstances.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The vastnesses of the Russian forest and people defeated every invader which came against them, throughout history.’
      thwart, block, frustrate, prevent, foil, baulk, ruin, put a stop to, scotch, obviate, forestall, debar, snooker, derail
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Prevent (an aim) from being achieved.
      ‘don't cheat by allowing your body to droop—this defeats the object of the exercise’
      • ‘‘If we grant one temporary permission we would have to grant them all, which defeats the object of the law,’ he said.’
      • ‘The closure of a further service facility in rural areas will completely defeat this aim.’
      • ‘Having too many choices not only defeats the objective of providing each of us with a neater fit but it inflates our sense of self-importance.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Otherwise travellers will need to find alternative ways of getting to London - defeating an object of traffic reduction.’
      • ‘Its spokeswoman Nancy Webster said she feared the high charges would defeat the object of the legislation.’
      • ‘I, of course, prefer giving the constitution's limits effect over a restraint that defeat the constitution's aim.’
      • ‘On my first run, he stopped chortling long enough to point out that to use your legs as brakes the whole way down the hill is rather defeating the object.’
      • ‘Inclusion of modern subjects would defeat this objective.’
      • ‘In fact disclosure of their meaning would defeat their very object in sending them.’
      • ‘Paradoxically, it drove people to take the law into their own hands more than ever before defeating the purported objective behind the law.’
      • ‘The Outer Ring Road was designed to keep truck traffic away from the city, but the growth of the suburbs defeated this objective.’
      • ‘We were in danger of becoming a call centre - which defeated the objective of being a technology-based solution.’
      • ‘They can be satisfied by ritualistic observance with little meaning, defeating their intended objectives.’
      • ‘Besides, the big clearing banks would probably refuse to honour the holiday and stay open, defeating the object of ‘coming together as a nation’ or whatever else it is people do on their national days.’
      • ‘Coimbatore's roadside parks and islands stand to defeat the very objective of road-safety.’
      • ‘This will defeat the object of a by-pass which will soon become full with short distance commuters.’
      • ‘But quite frankly if it's going to rain all week then the object has been defeated.’
      • ‘A problem that has to be dealt with immediately, however, is the influx of people into Alexandra, defeating the objective of de-densifying the overcrowded township.’
      • ‘It would surely defeat the object of the exercise if we were to give everything away for free?’
    3. 1.3 Reject or block (a motion or proposal)
      ‘the amendment was defeated’
      • ‘They invoked the Armageddon option and started threatening to table a vote of confidence in the Government if the rebels defeated the proposal.’
      • ‘The proposal was soundly defeated in a recorded vote with only 11 voting for the motion. 67 voted against and there were 11 abstentions.’
      • ‘The Senate defeats proposals to roll back overtime pay.’
      • ‘The motion was defeated by a razor thin vote of 137 to 132.’
      • ‘Labour eventually defeated the motion 26 votes to 23.’
      • ‘This proposal was defeated in the UN General Assembly by 60 votes to 15, with 39 abstentions.’
      • ‘When it was initially proposed early in 2001, the motion was defeated by the combined votes of the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors.’
      • ‘If the proposal is defeated the developers could build a 100-foot tower on the same site, but none of the community bonuses would be included in the deal.’
      • ‘The motion was defeated at Holyrood on Thursday.’
      • ‘This proposal was defeated and since then there has been considerable debate as to how to respond to the Supreme Court decision.’
      • ‘The counter proposal was defeated by 6 votes to 2.’
      • ‘It was a clever stratagem for defeating the tax proposals without incurring the popular odium for doing so.’
      • ‘The team defeated the motion which was ‘That child labour is a necessity in the developing world.’’
      • ‘Three years after a referendum in which a republican proposal was defeated, the movement remains alive, although it has no obvious path toward attaining its goal.’
      • ‘However, the motion was defeated by 80 votes to 24.’
      • ‘The ‘don't knows’ have melted to 45, and the motion is defeated by 400 to 265.’
      • ‘Are you now glad that both proposals were defeated?’
      • ‘The motion was subsequently defeated by 26 votes to 24 at a council meeting in June 12, 1992.’
      • ‘When that motion was defeated, another was created to add an item to the agenda to further discuss the interpretation of the proxy voting bylaw.’
      • ‘The motion was defeated by just one vote last year, but even since then, there is a far more liberal attitude within the association.’
      reject, overthrow, throw out, dismiss, outvote, spurn, rebuff, turn down
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 Be impossible for (someone) to understand.
      ‘this line of reasoning defeats me, I must confess’
      • ‘For reasons that defeat us, The Road Goes On Forever has been out of print for 20 years.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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, puzzle, perplex, bewilder, mystify, bemuse, confuse, confound, frustrate, nonplus, throw
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5Law Render null and void; annul.
      • ‘This contrast is sufficient to defeat the defendants' argument, as a matter of binding authority.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘To hold otherwise would likely defeat the plaintiff's right to have these claims heard on their merits.’
      • ‘The Plaintiff maintains that those transfers were intended to defeat the Plaintiff.’


  • An instance of defeating or being defeated.

    ‘a 1–0 defeat by Grimsby’
    mass noun ‘she had still not quite admitted defeat’
    • ‘He lost his job after a shock defeat at the local elections in June.’
    • ‘But despite this fact the party has been uprooted from the political arena with defeats in both the elections.’
    • ‘She was a representative for Dun Laoghaire from February 1987 until her defeat in the general election of June 1989.’
    • ‘Election defeats are being interpreted by some as a referendum on the presidency.’
    • ‘It was always going to be difficult to get all of us in the same city on the same day and despite frantic juggling we've had to admit a temporary defeat.’
    • ‘After the election defeat in May 2004, the Party has gone through a series of crises.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Michelle has not let her recent defeat at the local elections dampen her spirits, and was, in fact, encouraged by the results.’
    • ‘They lived the illusion of victory in every one of their lost battles, and to this day we refuse to admit our defeats.’
    • ‘The 1940 election saw the defeat of then Mayor Telford.’
    • ‘Nixon's performance in this debate was in part instrumental in his defeat and the election of John F. Kennedy to the White house in the November 1960.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They haven't even begun - after two election defeats!’
    • ‘‘The first 12 months after an election defeat are always difficult,’ Smith said.’
    loss, beating, conquest, conquering, besting, worsting, vanquishing, vanquishment, game, set, and match
    failure, downfall, breakdown, collapse, ruin, lack of success, discomfiture, rejection, frustration, foundering, misfiring, overthrow, abortion, miscarriage
    View synonyms


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