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[v. dee-foh-lee-eyt; adj. dee-foh-lee-it, -eyt] /v. diˈfoʊ liˌeɪt; adj. diˈfoʊ li ɪt, -ˌeɪt/
verb (used with object), defoliated, defoliating.
to strip (a tree, bush, etc.) of leaves.
to destroy or cause widespread loss of leaves in (an area of jungle, forest, etc.), as by using chemical sprays or incendiary bombs, in order to deprive enemy troops or guerrilla forces of concealment.
verb (used without object), defoliated, defoliating.
to lose leaves.
(of a tree) having lost its leaves, especially by a natural process.
Origin of defoliate
1785-1795; < Medieval Latin dēfoliātus, past participle of dēfoliāre, equivalent to Latin dē- de- + foli(um) leaf + -ātus -ate1
Related forms
defoliation, noun
defoliator, noun
undefoliated, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for defoliate
  • Plants wilt, prematurely defoliate, and eventually fall over due to lack of root support.
  • When they are abundant, leafrollers can defoliate fruit trees completely.
  • When they are abundant, the caterpillars reportedly can defoliate fruit trees.
  • Plants may co-exist with the infection, or may defoliate if severely infected.
  • After caterpillars completely defoliate the tree where they hatched, hungry caterpillars start to migrate to search for more food.
  • If allowed to become numerous they can completely defoliate plants.
  • When abundant, caterpillars can completely defoliate trees.
  • Sawflies often feed in groups and can quickly defoliate a portion of a tree or plant.
  • Viburnum leaf beetle causes extensive damage to viburnums and, where established, can completely defoliate the plants.
  • While tent caterpillars can nearly defoliate a tree when numerous, the tree will usually recover and put out new leaves.
British Dictionary definitions for defoliate


verb (diːˈfəʊlɪˌeɪt)
to deprive (a plant) of its leaves, as by the use of a herbicide, or (of a plant) to shed its leaves
adjective (diːˈfəʊlɪɪt)
(of a plant) having shed its leaves
Derived Forms
defoliation, noun
defoliator, noun
Word Origin
C18: from Medieval Latin dēfoliāre, from Latin de- + folium leaf
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for defoliate

1793, perhaps a back-formation from defoliation. Earlier in this sense was defoil (c.1600). Related: Defoliated; defoliating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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