AskDefine | Define vulnerability

Dictionary Definition



1 the state of being vulnerable or exposed; "his vulnerability to litigation"; "his exposure to ridicule" [syn: exposure]
2 susceptibility to injury or attack [ant: invulnerability]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The state of being weak
    Infants should be taken much care to get avoid from illness because of their vulnerabilities.
  2. Susceptibility to attack or injury; being well not defended.
    The country recognized their defence vulnerability after an airplane landed in front of the central square without any conscious.

Derived terms


The state of being vulnerable
Susceptibility to attack or injury
Translations to be checked


Extensive Definition

For other uses of the word "Vulnerability", please refer to vulnerability (computing) You may also want to refer to natural disaster.
Vulnerability is the susceptibility to physical or emotional injury or attack. It also means to have one's guard down, open to censure or criticism; assailable. Vulnerability refers to a person's state of being liable to succumb, as to persuasion or temptation (see Thywissen 2006 for a comparison of vulnerability definitions).

Common applications

In relation to hazards and disasters, vulnerability is a concept that links the relationship that people have with their environment to social forces and institutions and the cultural values that sustain and contest them. “The concept of vulnerability expresses the multidimensionality of disasters by focusing attention on the totality of relationships in a given social situation which constitute a condition that, in combination with environmental forces, produces a disaster” (Bankoff et al. 2004: 11).
It's also the extent to which changes could harm a system.

Emerging research

Vulnerability research covers a complex, multidisciplinary field including development and poverty studies, public health, climate studies, security studies, engineering, geography, political ecology, and disaster and risk management. This research is of particular importance and interest for organizations trying to reduce vulnerability – especially as related to poverty and other Millennium Development Goals. Many institutions are conducting interdisciplinary research on vulnerability. A forum that brings many of the current researchers on vulnerability together is the Expert Working Group (EWG).1 Researchers are currently working to refine definitions of “vulnerability”, measurement and assessment methods, and effective communication of research to decision makers (Birkmann et al. 2006).

Major research questions

Within the body of literature related to vulnerability, major research streams include questions of methodology, such as: measuring and assessing vulnerability, including finding appropriate indicators for various aspects of vulnerability, up- and downscaling methods, and participatory methods (Villagran 2006).
A sub-category of vulnerability research is social vulnerability, where increasingly researchers are addressing some of the problems of complex human interactions, vulnerability of specific groups of people, and shocks like natural hazards, climate change, and other kinds of disruptions. The importance of the issue is indicated by the establishment of endowed chairs at university departments to examine social vulnerability.

Military Vulnerability

In military circles Vulnerability is a subset of Survivability (the others being Susceptibility and Recoverability). Vulnerability is defined in various ways depending on the nation and service arm concerned, but in general it refers to the near-instantaneous effects of a weapon attack. In some definitions Recoverability (damage control, firefighting, restoration of capability) is included in Vulnerability.
A discussion of warship vulnerability can be found here


The term Invulnerability is a common feature found in video games. It makes the player impervious to pain, damage or loss of health. It can be found in the form of "powerups" or cheats. Generally, it does not protect the player from certain instant-death hazards, most notably "bottomless" pits from which, even if the player were to survive the fall, he or she would be unable to escape. As a rule, invulnerability granted by power-ups is temporary, and wears off after a set amount of time, while invulnerability cheats, once activated, remain in effect until deactivated, or the end of the level is reached. Depending on the game in question, invulnerability to damage may or may not protect the player from non-damage effects, such as being immobilized or sent flying.



Bankoff, Greg, George Frerks and Dorothea Hilhorst. 2004. Mapping Vulnerability. Sterling: Earthscan.
Birkmann, Joern (editor). 2006. Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards – Towards Disaster Resilient Societies. UNU Press.
Thywissen, Katharina. 2006. “Components of Risk: A comparative glossary." SOURCE No. 2/2006. Bonn, Germany.
Villagran, Juan Carlos. "“Vulnerability: A conceptual and methodological review." SOURCE. No. 2/2006. Bonn, Germany. 14:44, 5 October 2006
1. The Expert Working Group on Vulnerability is a group of experts brought together by the United Nations University Institute of Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). The overall goal of the Expert Working Group is to advance the concept of human security regarding vulnerability of societies to hazards of natural origin. The EWG exchanges ideas about the development of methodologies, approaches and indicators to measure vulnerability. This is a key task to build a bridge between the theoretical conceptualization of vulnerability and its practical application in decision-making processes. The Expert Working Group is an exchange platform for experts and practitioners from various scientific backgrounds and world regions dealing with the identification and measurement of vulnerability. Emphasis is given to the identification of the different features and characteristics of vulnerability, coping capacities and adaptation strategies of different social groups, economic sectors and environmental components.

See also

vulnerability in Asturian: Vulnerabilidá
vulnerability in German: Vulnerabilität
vulnerability in Spanish: Vulnerabilidad
vulnerability in Persian: آسیب‌پذیری
vulnerability in French: Vulnérabilité
vulnerability in Simple English: Vulnerability

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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