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From Middle English inanicioun, borrowed from Old French inanition, itself borrowed from Late Latin inānītio, from inānīre (to make empty), from inānis (empty, vain); see inane.



inanition (countable and uncountable, plural inanitions)

  1. The act of removing the contents of something; the state of being empty.
    Synonyms: emptying, emptiness
    Antonym: repletion
    • 1635, David Person, “Of Sleepe and Dreames”, in Varieties: or, A Surveigh of Rare and Excellent Matters Necessary and Delectable for All Sorts of Persons[1], London: Thomas Alchorn, Section 1, pp. 246-247:
      Secondary causes of sleepe are divers; as excessive labour, agitation of the body, repletion, as by excesse of meates or drinkes, inanition, as by Copulation and many more of this kinde, which doe so waste the spirits, that of necessity, there behooveth a cessation to be for a time, that new spirits may be recollected for refreshing of it [...]
    • 1643, William Slatyer, The Compleat Christian, London, for the author, The Second Part of the Catechism, Section 5, p. 110,[2]
      3. What meane you by Incarnation?
      His inanition of himselfe, and as it were debasing of himselfe in respect of his majesty of divinity, thereby to put on humanity.
    • 1794, Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia[3], London: J. Johnson, Volume 1, Section 16, II., p. 137:
      We experience some sensations, and perform some actions before our nativity; the sensations of cold and warmth, agitation and rest, fulness and inanition, are instances of the former [...]
  2. (medicine) A state of advanced lack of adequate nutrition, food, or water or a physiological inability to utilize them, with resulting weakness.
    Synonyms: starvation, cachexia
    • 1849 May – 1850 November, Charles Dickens, chapter 52, in The Personal History of David Copperfield, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], published 1850, →OCLC:
      It may be reasonably inferred that our baby will first expire of inanition, as being the frailest member of our circle; and that our twins will follow next in order.
    • 1851, Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor[4], volume 1, London: George Woodfall & Son, page 475:
      The Diet of the street-children is in some cases an alternation of surfeit and inanition [...]
    • 1955, Samuel Beckett and Patrick Bowles (translators), Molloy by Samuel Beckett, Part I, in Three Novels, New York: Grove, 1959, p. 202,[5]
      And I who a fortnight before would joyfully have reckoned how long I could survive on the provisions that remained, probably with reference to the question of calories and vitamins, and established in my head a series of menus asymptotically approaching nutritional zero, was now content to note feebly that I should soon be dead of inanition.
  3. (philosophy) A spiritual emptiness or lack of purpose or will to live, akin to nausea in existentialist philosophy.
    • 1838, [Letitia Elizabeth] Landon (indicated as editor), chapter XIII, in Duty and Inclination: [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 186:
      There bending over her, with eyes bathed in tears, she watched the progress of her beloved Rosilia's melancholy disorder; she beheld her, pale, exhausted, either in listless inanition, or haunted with the dreadful idea that mental derangement or death would terminate her sufferings!
    • 1900, Joseph Conrad, chapter 17, in Lord Jim[6], Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood, page 196:
      I had forced into his hand the means to carry on decently the serious business of life, to get food, drink, and shelter of the customary kind while his wounded spirit, like a bird with a broken wing, might hop and flutter into some hole, to die quietly of inanition there.
    • 1920, Edith Wharton, chapter X, in The Age of Innocence, New York, N.Y., London: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, →OCLC:
      "Well, who is; but who has good music, and amuses people on Sunday evenings, when the whole of New York is dying of inanition."
    • 1939, Graham Greene, chapter 4, in The Lawless Roads[7], Penguin, published 2006, page 91:
      It was a small celebration: not much money to spend, and an enormous inanition eating away the faith.


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Inherited from Old French inanition, itself borrowed from Late Latin inānītiōnem, from inānīre (to make empty), from inānis (empty, vain).


  • IPA(key): /ɔ̃/
  • (file)


inanition f (plural inanitions)

  1. inanition (state of advanced lack of adequate nutrition with resulting weakness)
    mourir d’inanitionto die of inanition

Further reading[edit]