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What is the difference between the words enervate and intimidate? Both mean to weaken or to make timid.

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closed as general reference by Robusto, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, Gnawme, JSBձոգչ, Jim Feb 14 '12 at 19:51

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Have you checked in a dictionary? Their meanings are different. Enervate means make somebody feel weak and tired, but intimidate means frighten someone so that they'll do what you want. –  Irene Feb 14 '12 at 17:49
    
I was ______ by that man's presence! Which word fits here? Enervated or intimidated? –  Aditya Feb 14 '12 at 18:06
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Intimidated if you mean that his presence made you feel frightened. Enervated if you mean that he made you feel tired because (for example) he talked too much. –  Irene Feb 14 '12 at 18:10

3 Answers 3

Intimidate may have a sense of threatening someone to make them feel they must do what you want. It implies the presence or operation of a fear-inspiring force.

Atomic energy may intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs

Enervate is a bit different, having a sense of "making you feel tired and weak". E.g:

The hot sun enervated her to the point of collapse.

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I was ______ by that man's presence! Which word fits here? Enervated or intimidated? I guess it's intimidated, is it not? –  Aditya Feb 14 '12 at 18:11
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@Aditya, The context is not enough for me to decide. if "the man's presence" is a "threat", yes, it is "intimidated" –  Mustafa Feb 14 '12 at 18:18
    
@Aditya: You should avoid enervate entirely. It's relatively uncommon, can literally mean surgically remove the nerves, and is often misused as a synonym for excited. Best not bother with it at all. –  FumbleFingers Feb 14 '12 at 18:18

I think enervate implies physical weakening and intimidate implies mental weakening.

The lack of water left Bob enervated due to dehydration.

The steepness of the cliff intimidated Bob.

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The original Latin etymologies can help here.

  • Intimidate comes from in 'in' + timid 'fear' + the causative -ate.
  • Enervate comes from e 'from' + nerv 'muscle' + the causative -ate.

So, originally, and pretty much still in modern English, to intimidate someone is to frighten them ('fear into them') so that the intimidatee does what the intimidator demands.

Whereas, to enervate someone is to somehow take away their physical strength ('from their muscles'), by drugs, illness, or excessive labor. But enervate is also likely (perhaps more likely than intimidate) to be intransitive, and possibly a passive participle, referring to the result rather than the cause.

  • He's just getting over the flu, and he's feeling rather enervated right now.
  • He's just finished talking to the police, and he's feeling rather intimidated right now.
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