Definition of vulnerable in English:



  • 1Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

    ‘we were in a vulnerable position’
    ‘small fish are vulnerable to predators’
    • ‘Cash is also the most vulnerable to theft, and most travel policies only cover a few hundred pounds.’
    • ‘The inmates say the new prisons leave them isolated and vulnerable to abuse by guards.’
    • ‘The time it takes to climb a rope or scale a ladder leaves soldiers highly vulnerable to attack.’
    • ‘But if your ego is vulnerable to start off with, it will bruise harder and for longer.’
    • ‘Older people can be some of our most vulnerable citizens and far too often can find it hard to speak out.’
    • ‘The price is also vulnerable to any deterioration in the security situation in the Middle East.’
    • ‘Children are especially vulnerable to disease and malnutrition and need urgent care and supplies to help them survive.’
    • ‘People with severe mental illness are the most vulnerable in a society.’
    • ‘Young children are particularly vulnerable to the health impact of passive smoking.’
    • ‘Rio Ferdinand is a big player for United and with him suspended United seemed vulnerable at the back.’
    • ‘In some ways we're even more vulnerable to a flu pandemic than we were back then.’
    • ‘Normandy was his homeland and far more vulnerable to sudden attack than was his island kingdom.’
    • ‘These are testing times for America and for an economy vulnerable to a sudden fall in confidence.’
    • ‘There is an issue as to the extent to which he remains vulnerable to drug abuse and self harm.’
    • ‘It may have failed in its bid for NatWest, but Bank of Scotland is far from vulnerable to a takeover.’
    • ‘Its ice masses have been particularly vulnerable to the advance of global warming.’
    • ‘These are among the most vulnerable, fragile and threatened habitats in Britain.’
    • ‘Analysts will want to hear if the business could be vulnerable to the economic slowdown.’
    • ‘The economy is vulnerable to a rise in the euro exchange rate or in interest rates.’
    • ‘Children are particularly vulnerable to teasing, which can cause great distress.’
    in danger, in peril, in jeopardy, at risk, endangered, unsafe, unprotected, ill-protected, unguarded
    exposed to, open to, wide open to, liable to, prone to, prey to, susceptible to, subject to, not above, in danger of, at risk of, at the mercy of, an easy target for, easily affected by
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) in need of special care, support, or protection because of age, disability, or risk of abuse or neglect.
      ‘the scheme will help charities working with vulnerable adults and young people’
      • ‘Our primary responsibility is our duty of care to our vulnerable residents.’
      • ‘Vulnerable adults who are victims of crime will be given more support to enable them to get justice under a new strategy.’
      • ‘Hospitalization can be hazardous for vulnerable elderly patients.’
      • ‘The government says it is committed to protecting vulnerable adults, but its actions suggest otherwise.’
      • ‘It's not only unpleasant events, but also some happy ones, that can be stressful to a vulnerable child.’
      • ‘Social services provides round the clock support to vulnerable people of all ages, from babies to the very old.’
      • ‘Vulnerable members of society should have a legal right to a home, the housing group said yesterday.’
      • ‘Such treatment of the community's most vulnerable patients is a disgrace.’
      • ‘The CRB currently handles background checks on those who apply for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults.’
      • ‘We are keen to recruit new volunteers over 18, and we offer training to become a mentor to a vulnerable young person.’
      • ‘He preys on vulnerable women, and has no problem smacking them around if they give him any grief.’
      • ‘In early 1996, he was hailed as the man who could save New York's most vulnerable children.’
      • ‘This forum is the main point of contact for those working with vulnerable adults.’
      • ‘Our members care for the most vulnerable people in our community.’
      • ‘It is vulnerable children who suffer disproportionately when these services fail.’
      • ‘It is imperative that the Irish and EU Governments introduce legislation and support services for these very vulnerable women.’
      • ‘There has been widespread public concern recently about the abuse of vulnerable adults who are being looked after by social services.’
      • ‘Christmas brings a distinct rise in the number of calls relating to mental health issues, child protection and the protection of vulnerable adults.’
      • ‘It goes without saying that bruises on a vulnerable person should always be investigated and the conclusions of that investigation carefully recorded.’
      • ‘Inner city programs are designed to give our most vulnerable children an opportunity to succeed.’
    2. 1.2Bridge (of a partnership) liable to higher penalties, either by convention or through having won one game towards a rubber.
      ‘the authors advise a variable no-trump opening bid which means weak non-vulnerable and strong vulnerable’
      • ‘A side which has already won one game towards the current rubber is said to be vulnerable.’


Early 17th century: from late Latin vulnerabilis, from Latin vulnerare ‘to wound’, from vulnus ‘wound’.