To render someone unable to take physical action or participate in regular activities due to injury, illness, or other factors.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



disable, debilitate, immobilize, paralyze, cripple


enable, empower, enable, strengthen, facilitate

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun None
Verb incapacitates, incapacitated, incapacitating, incapacitate
Adjective None
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • The car accident incapacitated him, leaving him with a broken leg and unable to walk for several months.

  • The virus spread rapidly, incapacitating the entire community and forcing them into quarantine to prevent further contagion.

  • The athlete’s injury during the game incapacitated him from continuing to participate in the tournament.

  • The sudden onset of a severe migraine incapacitated her, leaving her bedridden and unable to work for the day.


The word “incapacitate” traces its origins to the Latin roots “in-” meaning “not” and “capax” meaning “capable” or “able.” The suffix “-ate” is added to form the verb “incapacitate,” suggesting an action or process. The term “incapacitate” has been documented in English as early as the mid-17th century.

In its most basic sense, “incapacitate” refers to the act of rendering someone unable to take physical action or participate in regular activities due to injury, illness, or other factors. It describes a state of debilitation or incapacitation that hinders an individual’s ability to function normally.

The term is often utilized in medical and legal contexts. In a medical context, “incapacitate” is employed to describe the loss of physical or cognitive abilities caused by injury, illness, or the effects of medication. For example, a severe stroke may incapacitate a person, affecting their speech, mobility, or memory.

In legal contexts, “incapacitate” refers to the inability of an individual to perform essential functions or make competent decisions, often leading to the appointment of a guardian or conservator. The term is used to describe a person’s state of being incapacitated in terms of mental, emotional, or cognitive ability.

Additionally, “incapacitate” can be metaphorically used in non-medical and non-legal situations. For instance, it can describe the act of disabling or neutralizing someone or something in a competitive or conflict-driven scenario. In this sense, it implies rendering someone or something ineffective or unable to function as intended. This usage is commonly found in military, sports, and strategic contexts.

Overall, “incapacitate” is a versatile verb that describes the state of being unable to function normally or take physical action. Whether applied to individuals or in broader contexts, the word captures the essence of a debilitating condition that severely limits capabilities.