To take advantage of someone or something for one’s own gain, often in an unfair or unethical manner.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



Utilize, capitalize on, leverage, manipulate, abuse


Protect, safeguard, defend, respect

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun exploitation, exploits, exploitations, exploiters, exploit, exploiter
Verb exploiting, exploited, exploits, exploit
Adjective exploitative, exploitive, exploitatory
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • The company was accused of exploiting their workers by paying them below minimum wage.

  • He was criticized for exploiting the pandemic to make a profit by hoarding and reselling essential items.

  • The politician was accused of exploiting the public’s fears to gain more power.

  • The book exposed how colonizers exploited the natural resources of indigenous people for centuries.


The word “exploit” has a negative connotation as it implies taking advantage of someone or something for personal gain, often in a dishonest or unethical manner. The word can be used in various contexts, from labor and business to politics and culture.

The word “exploit” can also be used as a noun to refer to a heroic act or deed, particularly in the context of war or adventure. In this case, the word has a positive connotation and means an impressive accomplishment or achievement. For example, “He was awarded a medal for his exploits in the Vietnam War.”

The prefix “ex-” in “exploit” comes from the Latin “ex-” meaning “out of,” and “plaudere” meaning “to clap or applaud.” The word “exploit” has evolved to mean taking something out of a situation or person, often through manipulation or coercion.

There are also variations of the word “exploit” that can be used to modify or intensify its meaning. For example, the word “exploitative” can be used as an adjective to describe something that takes advantage of someone or something in an unethical or unfair manner. For example, “The company’s exploitative labor practices were exposed by the media.”

The word “exploitable” can also be used as an adjective to describe something that is vulnerable to being taken advantage of. For example, “The loophole in the tax code was exploitable by wealthy individuals to avoid paying taxes.”

Overall, the word “exploit” is a strong verb that implies taking advantage of someone or something in a way that is considered unethical or unfair. Its variations can add nuance to its meaning and can be used to describe situations where someone or something is being taken advantage of or is vulnerable to exploitation.