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

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

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What does the word vulnerable mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other sources like American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word vulnerable is an adjective that means open to attack or damage, or capable of being emotionally or physically wounded. It can also refer to when one is liable to increased penalties and bonuses after winning a hand of bridge. One can be vulnerable to many different physical and emotional things. Emotional vulnerability may come in the form of anxiety, severe mental illness, a lack of courage, fear of rejection, uncertainty, shame, or other emotional injury. Physically, vulnerability leaves one open to physical harm from deterioration, a sudden fall especially in older people, high blood pressure, or other great distress. This can also be used to talk about things and concepts instead of people. Vulnerable is four syllables – vul-ner-a-ble, and the pronunciation of vulnerable is ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl.

The word vulnerable is also present in many different languages to mean exposed to attack. You may notice that many of these words look and sound similar to the word vulnerable, or are even cognates for the word vulnerable. This is because these words have common origins in Latin. Many languages, particularly the romance languages, have their roots in Latin. Therefore, words of Latin origin will often be similar between languages. This list of translations for the word vulnerable is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Persian: آسیب‌پذیر‎ (âsib-pazir)
  •  Dutch: kwetsbaar‎
  •  Hebrew: פגיע‎ (pagía`)
  •  French: vulnérable‎
  •  Danish: sårbar‎
  •  Korean: 약한‎
  •  Japanese: 傷つきやすい‎ (kizutsuki-yasui), 脆い‎ (もろい, moroi), 弱い‎ (よわい, yowai)
  •  Swedish: sårbar‎, utsatt‎
  •  Indonesian: rentan‎
  •  Serbo-Croatian: рањив‎ (ranjiv)
  •  Georgian: დაუცველი‎
  •  Khmer: ដែលងាយធ្វើអោយឈឺចាប់‎ (dael ngiey tvəə aoy cʰɨɨ cap)
  •  Mandarin: 脆弱‎, 敏感‎, 易損‎, 易损‎, 弱勢‎, 弱势‎
  •  Hungarian: sebezhető‎
  •  Czech: zranitelný‎ (masc.)
  •  Spanish: vulnerable‎
  •  Lithuanian: pažeidžiamas‎ (masc.), pažeidžiama‎ (fem.)
  •  Italian: vulnerabile‎
  •  Galician: vulnerable‎
  •  Irish: soghonta‎
  •  Manx: so-lhottey‎
  •  Finnish: haavoittuvainen‎, herkkä‎
  •  Russian: уязви́мый‎
  •  German: verletzlich‎
  •  Portuguese: vulnerável‎
  •  Greek: ευάλωτος‎ (masc.), ευπαθής‎ (masc.), τρωτός‎ (masc.), ευπρόσβλητος‎ (masc.)

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word vulnerable?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word vulnerable. These are known as synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary or if you want to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word vulnerable is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  unprotected
  •  liable
  •  susceptible
  •  out on a limb
  •  defenseless
  •  sucker
  •  thin-skinned
  •  weak
  •  exposed
  •  assailable
  •  ready
  •  on the line
  •  accessible
  •  unguarded
  •  sensitive
  •  tender
  •  on the spot
  •  naked
  •  wide open
  •  unsafe
  •  sitting duck

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word vulnerable. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are opposite words and phrases that have the opposite definition of another word or phrase and are useful to know if you want to expand your knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word vulnerable is also provided by Thesaurus

  •  invulnerable
  •  safe and sound
  •  maintained
  •  impregnable
  •  vindicated
  •  under lock and key
  •  immune
  •  cherished
  •  under one’s wing
  •  protected
  •  intact
  •  out of danger
  •  out of harm’s way
  •  free from danger
  •  unmolested
  •  unthreatened
  •  uninjured
  •  safeguarded
  •  inviolable
  •  safe
  •  unharmed
  •  undamaged
  •  watched
  •  guarded
  •  home-free
  •  shielded
  •  snug
  •  secure
  •  sheltered
  •  tended
  •  impervious
  •  unassailable
  •  buttoned up
  •  okay
  •  unscathed
  •  sitting pretty
  •  unhurt
  •  in safety
  •  preserved

How can the word vulnerable be used in a sentence?

The word vulnerable can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Below are several examples of vulnerable.

Diabetes attacked the vulnerable part of the body – in the woman’s case, her feet. She consistently had to go to urgent care and also wore compression socks and special shoes.

The pair of players were vulnerable to greater penalties since they had already been yellow carded once in the game. After persuasion, they decided to play it safe – they didn’t want to ruin the tournament for America. 

The man was vulnerable to temptation and bribery from the troops at the other fort. He gave them information on flooding by the vulnerable bridge his army had to use in exchange for promised safety. Now, his guards were subject to a sudden attack they could not come back from. 

The vulnerable citizens, old people and young children were subject to malnutrition in their homeland in the Middle East, so the other countries stepped in to provide food and term courses of certain medicines.

The gulf coast refineries, petrochemical plants, and places that contributed to the global production of rubber were vulnerable to takeover. People began to realize these malicious programs were terrible for climate change.

What is the origin of the word vulnerable?

According to Etymonline, the word vulnerable has been used since 1600 and comes from the Late Latin vulnerabilis/Late Latin vulnerābilis, from the Latin vulnerāre/Latin vulnerare meaning to wound. These come from the Latin vulnus meaning wound from the genitive vulneris, which may be related to the Latin vellere, a verb meaning to pluck of tear. These come from the Proto-Indo-European roots wele-nes and wele- meaning to strike or wound. One can add different prefixes and suffixes including in, ty, bly, and ness to make the related words vulnerability (n.), invulnerable (adj.), vulnerably (adv.) and vulnerableness (n.)

Overall, the word vulnerable means subject to attack or weak in some way. This word is an adjective and is of Latin and Proto-Indo-European roots.


  1. VULNERABLE Synonyms: 28 Synonyms & Antonyms for VULNERABLE | Thesaurus 
  2. SAFE Synonyms: 128 Synonyms & Antonyms for SAFE | Thesaurus 
  3. vulnerable: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Vulnerable | Definition of Vulnerable | Merriam-Webster 
  5. vulnerable | Origin and meaning of vulnerable | Online Etymology Dictionary