17

I'm looking for a word to describe rendering a person powerless, for example somebody who is causing some grief to a group, and you are able to say something that destroys their argument and leaves them without a leg to stand on.
An example sentence would be:

"I _____ed him by expertly destroying his faulty logic".

I feel the word is on the tip of my tongue but I cannot place it.

  • 5
    I stymied him? thwarted him? – StoneyB Mar 25 '17 at 17:04
  • 3
    Sounds more like fantasy magic than anything that happens in real life. I ensorceled him? I cast a glamour upon him? – John Lawler Mar 25 '17 at 17:25
  • 3
    'Disarm' is close, but 'render harmless' possibly has no really good single-word synonyms. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 25 '17 at 17:37
  • 2
    WRT an opponent, iced works here. It used to be a euphemism for killed, but now mostly means messed with them, or forced them to go regroup. – Phil Sweet Mar 26 '17 at 3:54
  • 4
    I signed up to this SE site to reply to this:"subdue" is the most accurate (in terms of conveying the meaning you want) word to use in that instance. – Tom Busby Mar 26 '17 at 21:46

15 Answers 15

58

See neutralize. The Oxford dictionary defines it as

Make (something) ineffective by applying an opposite force or effect.

Make ineffective.

Popular use: The army neutralized the threat, Radical views neutralized by the opposition.

Also look up synonyms such as counterpoise.

  • True. These days, though, the natural continuation of the phrase "I neutralized" would be " ... the motherf***cker by ..." which may not be the effect the OP is seeking. – Ricky Mar 25 '17 at 18:22
  • 2
    Hey @Ricky. I just learned something new from your comments. Could you please tell me where can I find more on such usage? Is it a slang? – vickyace Mar 25 '17 at 18:30
  • 1
    I think this lacks the subjective, emotional content that the question appears to call for. – Kevin Mark Mar 25 '17 at 22:55
  • 5
    Neutralize is the perfect word for this but you can see in the example that its becoming an euphemism for "killing" more and more. ("The army neutralized the threat" : probably killed someone with a drone) – Jylo Mar 27 '17 at 12:13
  • @Jylo Or maybe ineffective means dead to all armies today. :) – vickyace Mar 28 '17 at 3:52
41

I like disarm for this.

  1. to deprive of the means of attack or defense:
    The lack of logic disarmed his argument.
  • 1
    This is what I thought of. – Feathercrown Mar 28 '17 at 11:18
39

"I defanged/declawed him by expertly destroying his faulty logic".

ODO:

defang VERB

[WITH OBJECT] often as adjective defanged
Render harmless or ineffectual.

‘the military, demoralized and defanged, gave up their campaign’

‘He's very much aware of the fact that humor can be used to defang a problematic issue.’

declaw VERB

[WITH OBJECT]

1.1 Make harmless or less threatening.

‘We shouldn't be surprised that the Tories are warming up to our metropolis just when they need ways to declaw the Liberals.’

  • 2
    Good one, probably the most specific to removing the power of someone already powerful. +1. – Dan Bron Mar 25 '17 at 18:45
  • 1
    Any animal can be made harmless by "removing its teeth"... – GoatsWearHats Mar 26 '17 at 4:20
  • @GoatsWearHats yes, but fangs are more menacing than teeth. – Elby Cloud Mar 31 '17 at 22:23
16

Neuter

transitive verb

2 : to remove the force or effectiveness of

In your sentence,

  • I neutered him by expertly destroying his faulty logic.

Note this particular phrasing (you neuter him rather than his argument) puts the emphasis on you removing his ability to cause grief.

  • I (a native American English speaker) find the neutered him phrasing funny, somewhat implying that you neutered him the way you would a dog. Neutered his argument would work okay, but in applying it to a living being the first sense is much stronger for me. – Dougal Mar 27 '17 at 22:57
  • @Dougal: My impression is that this usage really is a metaphor for precisely what you describe, based on the belief that neutering an animal eliminates their more aggressive/forceful tendencies and makes them docile. – Hurkyl Mar 28 '17 at 1:14
  • And the usage has bonus points in this particular context for likening the guy's actions to those of an animal. – Hurkyl Mar 28 '17 at 1:17
12

Similar to @vickyace's neutralize, which I like is the word

incapacitate

make unable to perform a certain action

Source: Macmillian

That is, you remove someone's capacity [to do something]. This is frequently used in the firearms community, when talking about a weapon's stopping power:

Stopping power is the ability of a firearm or other weapon to cause enough ballistic trauma to a target (human or animal) to immediately incapacitate (and thus stop) the target. This contrasts with lethality in that stopping power pertains only to a weapon's ability to incapacitate quickly, regardless of whether death ultimately occurs.

Source: Wikipedia article on stopping power

You can see here it only describes the power to remove someone's ability to act.

The drawback of this word, like neutralize, is that it's not specific to incapacitating powerful people. For that, you may consider dethrone, but that has its own limitations.

8

Humbled (v)

"I humbled him by expertly destroying his faulty logic."

From Mariam-Webster:

to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

This one directly emphasizes the loss of power, while at the same time conveys their status change in the eyes of the group.

8

Eviscerated

1
a : to take out the entrails of : disembowel
b : to deprive of vital content or force

"Eviscerate." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

  • 3
    That is usually not just rendering the person harmless but very lifeless - and it comes with a connotation of savage violence. – rackandboneman Mar 27 '17 at 10:07
7

castrate: to render impotent or deprive of vitality especially by psychological means-(M-W)

This is obviously more applicable if the powerful person is male, but the term can be applied more generally. For example the dictionary uses an example of castrating a piece of legislation by removing the enforcement provisions. Powerful women, especially who use their position in a ruthless way, are often referred to disparagingly in male terms, including an expression like this.

Castrate can mean a somewhat "neutral" sense of simply removing their power, but it can also describe humiliating them in the process.

  • 4
    A close one to this would be - especially with relations to doing this to a male protagonist - Neuter. "I **neutered** him by expertly destroying his faulty logic". – WernerCD Mar 26 '17 at 2:54
  • 2
    Actually, "to castrate" can also mean "to remove the ovaries" e.g. my female cat is castrated, so it's not only applicable to male villains. – Sumyrda Mar 26 '17 at 8:24
  • 2
    @Sumyrda, I see dictionary.com concurs that castrate can mean "to remove the ovaries of" as well as "remove the testes of". Your comment was the first instance I encountered for the alternate meaning; before this I'd only heard "spayed" used for the removal of an animal's ovaries. – moonpoint Mar 26 '17 at 15:16
  • @Sumyrda I guess the next logic step would be Spayed... but I don't think I spayed her by expertly destroying her faulty logic has the right ring to it... – WernerCD Mar 26 '17 at 17:07
  • Also along these lines: "cut his balls off". But only if you want to be crude. – Dave Mar 27 '17 at 17:12
7

Reading your question, it seems to me that you re implying that the word needs to evoke the feeling of the person who has been brought down.

What about crush? It fits your main stipulation,

I'm looking for a word to describe rendering a person powerless

and can certainly include the elements of "power" and "group dynamics" in your example, albeit without specifically addressing them.

Here is the pertinent entry from Macmillan:

to completely defeat someone who is opposing you, especially by using force or violence Any anti-government protest was swiftly crushed.

To defeat someone in a game, competition or argument: defeat, win, beat... to easily defeat someone who is competing against you

While crush has emotional content, in the sense that the person in question might feel crushed, the word deflate hints at the idea of "puffed up" pride as well.

Applying it to the example in the question:

My expert destruction of his faulty logic left him completely deflated.

Oxford Online:

2 Make (someone) suddenly lose confidence or feel dispirited. ‘the news left him feeling utterly deflated’

Macmillan:

to make someone feel less confident or important Peter’s comments completely deflated the boy’s confidence.

Longman:

to make someone feel less important or less confident

Otherwise, some phrases express your idea well:

I was able to put him in his place with my expert destruction of his faulty logic.

Oxford Online: put someone in his or her place

I was able to knock him down (quite) a few pegs with my expert destruction of his faulty logic.

Oxford Online: take someone down a peg or two

Both of these phrases manage to capture the ideas of crushing and humbling, showing that the person had been feeling superior to you.

  • Please don't post text as an image. – m69 Mar 26 '17 at 2:25
  • I'm happy to comply if there is a standard I don't know about, or if it the graphic is not appearing to some users. What is the reason for this request? – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 2:35
  • 4
    The reason is mainly that text in an image is not searchable and can't be read by screen-readers, so it is discouraged as a general rule on SE. See e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/116050/… or meta.stackexchange.com/questions/141752/… – m69 Mar 26 '17 at 2:45
5

One option would be nullify, which has a meaning, in this context, similar to neutralize.

American Heritage Dictionary:

nullify: To counteract the force or effectiveness of.

COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary:

To nullify something means to make it have no effect.

Collins English Dictionary:

nullify: to render ineffective or useless; cancel out

If you look at the dictionaries, you’ll see that it also has a specific legal definition with much the same meaning.

4

For a male, there's also emasculated, which is a synonym for castrated, meaning "to deprive of strength or vigor; weaken." The American president Theodore Roosevelt once called the American-born British writer Henry James "A little emasculated mass of inanity".

  • TR was such a jerk. – MissMonicaE Mar 27 '17 at 13:05
3

Silence

To curtail the expression of; suppress: silencing all criticism; silenced their opponents. (American Heritage)

Example:

I silenced him by revealing his faulty logic.

The credit must go to @user227155, who explains: the only sign that you have out-argued a difficult person is that they respond with silence (i.e. admit they have no counter).

1

Hamstring

verb (used with object), hamstrung, hamstringing.

  1. to disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings; cripple.
  2. to render powerless or useless; thwart: Their efforts were hamstrung by stubborn pride.

OP, the way you asked the question is certainly apropos :)

... and leaves them without a leg to stand on.

1

Humiliated

"I humiliated him by expertly destroying his faulty logic."

From Merriam-Webster:

to reduce (someone) to a lower position in one's own eyes or others' eyes : to make (someone) ashamed or embarrassed

I think this one may be a little strong, but it would emphasize the social aspect of exposing the faulty logic (i.e., being wrong publicly). It also works well for describing someone in a group because it implies that there are others' opinions involved.

-1

Mitigate

1: to cause to become less harsh or hostile

2a: to make less severe or painful

2b: extenuate

Source: m-w.com

protected by tchrist Mar 26 '17 at 15:47

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.