The Meaning of Detrimental: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of detrimental? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word detrimental, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word detrimental mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge English Dictionary, the word detrimental (pronounced ˌdɛtrɪˈmɛnt ə l) is an adjective that means harmful or damaging. This can be used in many different ways; it could refer to the detrimental impact that pollution has on the environment, or the detrimental effect that eating fast food for every meal has on one’s health. This word is very versatile in American English. The adverb form of the word detrimental is detrimentally. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

There are many different languages that also contain words meaning detrimental. You may notice that many of these words look and sound similar to each other. These are called cognates, which are words that look, sound, and mean something similar across languages. Cognates are often formed when two words or languages have a common root or ancestral language such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word detrimental is provided by Word Sense

  • Danish: skadelig‎
  • German: schädlich‎, abträglich‎
  • Arabic: ضَارّ‎
  • Georgian: საზიანო‎
  • Korean: 해롭다‎
  • Spanish: dañino‎
  • Turkish: zararlı‎
  • Bulgarian: вреден‎, увреждащ‎
  • Japanese: 害‎, 損なう‎ (そこなう, sokonau), 有害‎
  • French: nuisible‎, néfaste‎
  • Portuguese: danoso‎, prejudicial‎
  • Dutch: schadelijk‎
  • Hungarian: ártalmas‎, káros‎
  • Swedish: skadlig‎
  • Italian: dannoso‎
  • Norwegian: skadelig‎
  • Romanian: dăunător‎, vătămător‎
  • Irish: aimhleasach‎, díobhálach‎, dochrach‎
  • Russian: вре́дный‎, вредоно́сный‎
  • Mandarin: 有害‎
  • Finnish: vahingollinen‎, haitallinen‎

How can the word detrimental be used in a sentence?

The word detrimental can be used in many different circumstances to refer to something that is harmful. In this first example, Kaila is at the dentist for the first time since going to college.

Kaila: How are they looking?

Dentist: Unfortunately, not looking so good. You have at least eight cavities.

Kaila: What?! How is that possible? I do everything the same. I brush my teeth twice a day, I floss.

Dentist: Are you a partier, Kaila? I promise I won’t tell your parents.

Kaila: I mean a little, why?

Dentist: I see this all the time with college students. Often when they get home from a night of drinking sugary alcoholic beverages, they flop into bed without brushing their teeth. The residue is really detrimental to your teeth overnight. Try keeping even just some mouthwash by your bed and swish it around before you go to sleep.

Here, Kaila’s dentist discusses the detrimental effects that not brushing your teeth after a night of drinking can have on the health of her teeth, despite her frequent brushing.

What is the origin of the word detrimental?

According to Etymonline, the word detrimental has been used as an adjective since the 1650s to refer to something that is injurious or harmful. This was also used in the 19th century as a slang term for some ineligible suitor who wastes the time of a woman who is seeking marriage. The word detrimental was formed from the word detriment. Detriment is a noun that has been used since the 15th century to mean some incapacity, and since the mid-15th century to refer to some harm or injury. This comes from the Old French détriment or possibly directly from the Latin detrimentum, meaning some loss or defeat. The Latin word comes from the past participle stem of deter, a verb meaning to weaken or impair. This is where we get the related rods deter and deteriorate, amongst others. The word detriment has been used to refer to something that causes harm or injury since the year 1500.  

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word detrimental?

There are many different words that one can sue in place of the word detrimental. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same or a similar meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English grammatical tool to have in your arsenal. They can help you expand your English language vocabulary, adn help you avoid repeating the same word over and over again. This list of synonyms for the word detrimental is provided by Thesaurus.

  • crippling
  • nocuous
  • internecine
  • malicious
  • hurtful
  • ruinous
  • injurious
  • disadvantageous
  • catastrophic
  • damaging
  • detrimental
  • unfavorable
  • evil
  • noxious
  • prejudicious
  • mischievous
  • consumptive
  • prejudicial
  • subversive
  • disturbing
  • bad
  • painful
  • incendiary
  • corrupting
  • adverse
  • deleterious
  • pestilential
  • toxic
  • menacing
  • ill
  • murderous
  • unsafe
  • destructive
  • sinister
  • disastrous
  • malignant
  • unwholesome
  • negative
  • harmful
  • baleful
  • baneful
  • inimical
  • cataclysmic
  • pernicious
  • unhealthy
  • harassing
  • dire
  • malefic
  • risky
  • corroding
  • virulent
  • sinful
  • undermining
  • calamitous
  • pestiferous

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word detrimental. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another useful English grammatical tool to know to help you expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word detrimental is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • conducive
  • benevolent
  • useful
  • essential
  • improving
  • valuable
  • convenient
  • helpful
  • advantageous
  • sympathetic
  • efficacious
  • profitable
  • benign
  • kind
  • applicable
  • worthy
  • bettering
  • salutary
  • significant
  • gainful
  • contributive
  • accessible
  • good
  • serendipitous
  • constructive
  • propitious
  • cooperative
  • operative
  • neighborly
  • toward
  • good for what ails you
  • favorable
  • favoring
  • practical
  • usable
  • friendly
  • suitable
  • wholesome
  • serviceable
  • salubrious
  • important
  • healthful
  • instrumental
  • supportive
  • productive
  • what the doctor ordered
  • effectual
  • crucial
  • beneficent
  • timely
  • fortunate
  • beneficial
  • pragmatic
  • invaluable
  • good for
  • symbiotic
  • utilitarian
  • caring
  • considerate
  • accommodating

Overall, the word detrimental is an adjective that is used to refer to something that is harmful or detrimental. This word can be used in both general and specific settings. The word detrimental is of latin origin. Alternate forms of the word detrimental include the noun detriment and the adverb detrimentally. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.wordsense.eu/detrimental/
  2. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/detrimental
  3. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/helpful
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/detrimental#etymonline_v_37264
  5. https://www.etymonline.com/word/detriment?ref=etymonline_crossreference
  6. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detrimental#:~:text=%3A%20obviously%20harmful%20%3A%20damaging%20the%20detrimental,or%20harmful%20person%20or%20thing
  7. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/detrimental