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

Have you ever wondered what the word emaciated means? This guide will give you all of the info you need on the word emaciated, including its definition, usage, etymology, synonyms, sentence examples, and more!

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What does the word emaciated mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary as well as other dictionary apps, the word emaciated is an adjective that describes someone or something who is extremely thin and very feeble, particularly from a lack of nutrition, lack of food, or illness. This word is often used to describe someone who is so thin it could be deadly, or to describe someone who is struggling with an eating disorder. If someone is emaciated to the point of starvation, they may be hospitalized to get them back up to a healthy weight by use of a feeding tube or other medically-based weight gain methods. Emaciation is the noun form of the word emaciated. Emaciated can be used to describe both people and animals, from emaciated children in third-world countries to emaciated horses who were abandoned by their owners.

Unfortunately, looking somewhat emaciated has become a bit of a standard in some modeling industries. Particularly in the 1990s, the “heroin chic” look came into fashion in the fashion industry, according to The Guardian. This phrase was borned from the photographer Davide Sorrenti, who glamourizes the extremely skinny models, who were so thin and emaciated they looked like drug addicts. Having this body type – or any body type, for that matter – be a fashion trend is extremely damaging to people. People will do unspeakable things to try and achieve the unachievable beauty standard set forth by the beauty and fashion industries, from starving themselves, to over exercising, to getting irreversible plastic surgeries to look like their favorite celebrities. 

This is the reason that many people now follow a body positive movement which states that all bodies should be accepted and not judged. The creators and followers of the body positive movement are trying to break free from the harmful standards set forward by the beauty and fashion industries. 

How can the word emaciated be used in a sentence?

The word emaciated can be used to describe anything that is dangerously skinny or malnourished, including both people and animals. In this first example, the word emaciated will be used to describe a person. Martha talks to Tom in the breakroom on a Monday morning.

Martha: Tom, did you see that news story about the guy they rescued from that island?!

Tom: What? No! What happened?

Martha: So this guy thinks he can survive all on his own, gets himself out to an island off of the coast, and all hell breaks loose. All of his belongings get washed out to sea, he didn’t tell anyone where he was going so everyone things he’s missing, everyone thought this guy was dead, until a fisherman finds his lodging and brings him back to shore.

Tom: Oh my God, is the guy okay?

Martha: He has a really emaciated body, he was out there for almost a month with not a lot to eat. But he;s in the hospital now and they think he’ll make a full recovery.

Tom: Wow. All I did this weekend was go on a bike ride, and this guy fully gets saved from a shipwreck. I need to start doing more interesting things.

In this next example, the word emaciated will be used to describe an animal. Now, Martha and Tom are chatting over lunch. 

Martha: I saw your Instagram post! Did you guys get a new dog?

Tom: We did! We had actually planned on adopting that dog for a while, but she wasn’t ready medically until last weekend.

Martha: Oh no! Is she okay?

Tom: Yeah, she’s fine now. When they found her she was tied to a fence and really emaciated, but now she’s at a healthy weight and she’s super sweet. 

What is the origin of the word emaciated?

According to Etymonline, the word emaciated has been used to mean “reduced to leanness” since the 1660s. This word is the past participle adjective form of the word emaciate. Also according to Etymonline, the word emaciate was first used in the 1620s to mean causing someone to lose flesh. This comes from the Latin emaciatus, which is the past participle form of the word emaciare, which means to make lean or waste away. This comes from the prefix “ex” meaning “out” and the root “macies” meaning “leanness,” which comes from “macer” meaning “thin.” Overall, the word emaciated has Latin roots and was formed after the verb emaciate.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word emaciated?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word emaciated. These are called synonyms. Synonyms are words and phrases that mean the same thing as a given word or phrase; someone might choose to use a synonym to expand their vocabulary or to avoid repeating themselves. This list of synonyms for the rod emaciated is provided by Thesaurus.

  • gaunt
  • scrawny
  • bony
  • meager
  • anorexic
  • skinny
  • peaked
  • wizened
  • thin as rail
  • skin-and-bones
  • lank
  • thin
  • atrophied
  • consumptive
  • wasted
  • famished
  • pinched
  • attenuate
  • undernourished
  • starved
  • attenuated
  • cadaverous
  • skeletal
  • like a bag of bones
  • lean
  • underfed
  • haggard
  • skeletonlike

What if someone wanted to refer to something or someone that is the opposite of emaciated? In this case they would use an antonym. An antonym is the opposite of a synonym; it is a word or phrase that has the opposite meaning to a given word or phrase. This list of antonyms for the word emaciated is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • solid
  • bulging
  • bovine
  • distended
  • rotund
  • elephantine
  • dumpy
  • heavy
  • plumpish
  • bulky
  • porcine
  • stout
  • obese
  • lard
  • bull
  • broad
  • thickset
  • potbellied
  • husky
  • corpulent
  • plump
  • gross
  • blimp
  • swollen
  • roly-poly
  • chunky
  • big
  • ponderous
  • gargantuan
  • hefty
  • pudgy
  • fat
  • inflated
  • weighty
  • whalelike
  • large
  • fleshy
  • burly
  • jelly-belly
  • paunchy
  • butterball
  • oversize
  • portly
  • beefy
  • overweight
  • meaty
  • heavyset
  • brawny 

Overall, the word emaciated means that someone is extremely or dangerously thin, often from a lack of nutrition. This adjective has Latin roots and can be used to describe both people and animals.