Definition of depopulate in US English:



[with object]
  • Substantially reduce the population of (an area)

    ‘the disease could depopulate a city the size of New Haven’
    • ‘When one examines the trend to declining populations in coastal communities it would appear that government has taken the position that they want to depopulate communities and relocate citizens to major urban areas.’
    • ‘The scenes of deserted, depopulated London are worth the price of admission themselves.’
    • ‘While the narrator clearly describes a room in the throes of chaos brought on by an influx of wounded soldiers, she also curiously depopulates the room of individual men.’
    • ‘In 2002 alone, 100 animals in 34 herds were diagnosed as having Johne's disease, with one entire herd being depopulated.’
    • ‘The rural exodus left the central massifs of France deserted, and depopulated a band drawn diagonally across the country from the north-east to the south-west.’
    • ‘For much of the period 1920-1980, large parts of the northern coastal area were effectively depopulated.’
    • ‘North African pirates abducted and enslaved more than one million Europeans between 1530 and 1780 in a series of raids that depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall, according to new research.’
    • ‘It especially applies to those areas which have been depopulated since famine times.’
    • ‘There were particular circumstances which gave rise to an adjustment in compensation for one flock owner whose sheep were depopulated in the period in question.’
    • ‘The valleys have not lost their character but agricultural and industrial changes have depopulated some areas and opened others to an influx of lowlanders seeking holiday and retirement homes.’
    • ‘Large areas of Africa were depopulated, economic development was severely depressed and the societies left behind were fragmented and destabilized.’
    • ‘The cheap labor they would provide in towns and cities would stimulate manufacturing, and the now depopulated countryside could be used for more profitable cattle farming…’
    • ‘In the United States, for example, huge, formerly ecologically significant areas such as Florida and the Rocky Mountains would be depopulated and restored to a natural state.’
    • ‘Remote hill farmers may deserve support to prevent inhospitable areas of the country being depopulated.’
    • ‘About 4,000 villages have been burnt and razed to the ground in an attempt to depopulate the area.’
    • ‘Perhaps this explains the empty streets of Tokyo in the film: the script is obligated to depopulate the city rather than confront the implications of the story.’
    • ‘She attributes a major depopulating role to venereal diseases, especially gonorrhoea, which makes women infertile.’
    • ‘I think they are still panicking and trying to gain some sense of control by depopulating the city.’
    • ‘Towns and cities will be left with thousands of unwanted apartments, schools may well be half empty and whole swathes of the countryside could be depopulated.’
    • ‘If our inland towns are becoming depopulated, how do we encourage folk to resettle them.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘ravage, lay waste’): from Latin depopulat- ‘ravaged’, from the verb depopulari, from de- ‘completely’ + populari ‘lay waste’ (from populus ‘people’).