defeat vs overcome what difference

what is difference between defeat and overcome



  • IPA(key): /dɪˈfiːt/
  • Rhymes: -iːt

Etymology 1

From Middle English defeten, from Middle English defet (disfigured, past participle) and defet (defect, noun), see Etymology 2 below.


defeat (third-person singular simple present defeats, present participle defeating, simple past and past participle defeated)

  1. (transitive) To overcome in battle or contest.
    Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
  2. (transitive) To reduce, to nothing, the strength of.
    • 1663, John Tillotson, The Wisdom of being Religious
      He finds himself naturally to dread a superior Being that can defeat all his designs, and disappoint all his hopes.
    • 1879, Adolphus Ward, Chaucer, in English Men of Letters
      In one instance he defeated his own purpose.
  3. (transitive) To nullify
    • 1827, Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England
      The escheators [] defeated the right heir of his succession.
Derived terms
  • self-defeating
  • vanquish, overcome, beat
  • conquer (defeat and annex); rout, crush, cream (decisive); shutout, zilch (sports, to defeat without permitting any opposing score)
Related terms

Etymology 2

From Middle English defet, from French deffet, desfait, past participle of the verb desfaire (compare modern French défaire), from des- + faire.


defeat (countable and uncountable, plural defeats)

  1. The act or instance of being defeated, of being overcome or vanquished; a loss.
    Licking their wounds after a temporary defeat, they planned their next move.
  2. The act or instance of defeating, of overcoming, vanquishing.
    The inscription records her defeat of the country’s enemies in a costly war.
  3. Frustration (by prevention of success), stymieing; (law) nullification.
    • 1909, The Southern Reporter, page 250:
      … is subsequently issued to him, in accordance with his perfect equity thus acquired, by a legal fiction which the law creates for the protection, but not for the defeat, of his title.
    • 2008, Gene Porter, A Daughter of the Land, volume 1 (→ISBN), page 17:
      She could see no justice in being forced into a position that promised to end in further humiliation and defeat of her hopes.
  4. (obsolete) Destruction, ruin.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, act 4, scene 1:
      and made defeat of her virginity
  • victory


  • feated



From Middle English overcomen, from Old English ofercuman (to overcome, subdue, compel, conquer, obtain, attain, reach, overtake), corresponding to over- +‎ come. Cognate with Dutch overkomen (to overcome), German überkommen (to overcome), Danish overkomme (to overcome), Swedish överkomma (to overcome).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌəʊvəˈkʌm/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌoʊvəɹˈkʌm/


overcome (third-person singular simple present overcomes, present participle overcoming, simple past overcame, past participle overcome)

  1. (transitive) To surmount (a physical or abstract obstacle); to prevail over, to get the better of.
    to overcome enemies in battle
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet, Ch. 4:
      By and by fumes of brandy began to fill the air, and climb to where I lay, overcoming the mouldy smell of decayed wood and the dampness of the green walls.
  2. (transitive) To win or prevail in some sort of battle, contest, etc.
  3. To come or pass over; to spread over.
  4. To overflow; to surcharge.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of J. Philips to this entry?)



overcome (plural overcomes)

  1. (Scotland) The burden or recurring theme in a song.
  2. (Scotland) A surplus.


  • overcome in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  • overcome in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.


  • come over, come-over, comeover

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