a. He was a much defeated man.

In the record of the Canadian Parliament from 1885

b. He was a very much defeated man.

In Rehabilitation Client Assessment - Page 41

Do these mean that

  1. He had been defeated badly

or that

  1. He had been defeated a great number of times


The sentences sound archaic to me, but examples of 'a much defeated' and 'a very much defeated' can readily be found on google books.

  • 1
    Of the results I found by a Google Ngrams search, some are false positives (where the words happen to be next to one another in two columns of text) - the rest seem to mean 'having been defeated many times in the past' and are often hyphenated e.g. Abraham Lincoln was a much-defeated candidate for political office when he came to New York in 1860... Apr 15, 2022 at 7:17
  • 1
    I've added the examples from google books.
    – James K
    Apr 15, 2022 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


In the first example, the context suggests that the speaker means someone who has often been defeated. (in a literal way, defeated in votes in Parliament)

The second example seems to indicate someone who is "utterly" or "indisputably" defeated. (in a figurative way, meaning "demoralised or overcome by adversity)

Part of the significant difference is not the use of "very", but the different meaning of "defeated". In the first example it seems to be a particple (or at least it is much closer to the verbal meaning of "defeat"). In the second it is an adjective with a sense that is distict from the meaning of the verb.

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