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Distinguishing Terms: Deactivate vs. Inactivate

Distinguishing Terms: Deactivate vs. Inactivate

Deactivate and “inactivate” are two separate words in the English language. They have certain meanings. They differ in terms of grammar and usage. They have some sort of idiomatic difference. Despite their ability to disrupt or eliminate normal functioning to its initial level, or to completely disrupt something you were doing normally, they differ in terms of how to use this word correctly and in the appropriate context.

Deactivate means rendering something inactive or no longer effective, whereas inactive means rendering something useless.

Hence, both of them are those words of the English language that have their individuality in terms of the rules of grammar and usage. I will give all the meanings and startling differences between these two terms and will address the necessary grammatical rules to improve your vocabulary.

Let’s get started!

What is the distinction between the terms “deactivate” and “inactivate”?

Both terms refer to rendering a person incapable of performing normal functions. They are semantically equivalent. However, there is an idiomatic distinction.

Inactivation is the suppression of action through a change in form or environment. Deactivating something means making it inoperable by disconnecting or disassembling it.

The distinction is subtle. In practice, inactivate is typically used in the biological sciences, whereas deactivate is commonly used in engineering.

An enzyme can be inactivated by adjusting the pH of the solution it is in or by changing its temperature. On, deactivates a radio by turning it off, removing the batteries, or striking it with a hammer.

The usage of both these words varies according to subject and context.

Inactivate vs. Deactivate- What’s the difference?

There is no semantic difference between the two, and their general meanings are the same. They are both antonyms of activating. They mean;

To cease or stop an activity 
There is a slight difference between the two in terms of pragmatics or we can say they have different contextual meanings.

Deactivate implies (or one can infer) a more permanent cessation of activity than inactivate, which implies that the activity may return relatively soon.

“Inactive” means idle or not working, so when you deactivate something, it stops doing what it normally does. For example, when we deactivate an account, it becomes inactive.

I think some of the confusion is already cleared.

What is meant by “deactivate”?

To deactivate something means turning it off. Something inactive is something that has already been turned off. The word “inactivate” does not exist. The correct wording is “deactivate. It means that you are no longer active.

Whether it’s a credit card that’s been canceled, a membership that’s been canceled, or something else. In all these cases we use the word “Deactivated”.

It means being rendered inactive. When referring to machinery or technology, it usually means that it has been turned off and is no longer performing its function. When in the inactive state, anything that can be described as being able to switch from an active state to an inactive state is said to be deactivated.

We use the word “deactivated” for technology or machinery that has stopped or is not long in working condition.

An image shows two options, either to cancel or to deactivate an account.
If you deactivate your Facebook account, it will appear that it is no longer effective to other people.

Is inactivated interchangeable with deactivated?

The verb “inactivate” exists, but it was only widely used from the 1960s to the early 1980s. The term “deactivate” is not used in the same way as “inactivate” is.

Inactivate” literally means “to render something (a thing) inactive, inoperative, or inoperable.” To put it another way, to make something not work.

Household bleach, for example, does not inactivate the virus, and coffee tends to inactivate medicinal remedies.

Compare this to “deactivate,” which means to make something inactive by destroying or disconnecting it—for example, the switch deactivates the alarm.
Inactivate means to stop it from working, whereas deactivate means to disconnect it and make it inactive.

So, by seeing all of these literal meanings, it seems better if we use the word “deactivate” rather than the word “inactivate” in a sentence.

Have a deeper look at the meaning of “inactivate” through this video.

What does “inactivate” actually mean?

Can we compare inactivated and deactivated?

The terms “inactivate” and “deactivate” are interchangeable. Deactivate is more commonly used when dealing with technical equipment, but they both mean the same thing.

As a verbTo make inactiveTo deactivate, to prevent a reaction or two make something no longer effective
Alternative formsInactiveDe-activate
ExamplesMy computer was inactivated; everything was erased.I have deactivated my Instagram account.
Comparison between “inactivate” and “Deactivate”

Although they seem to signify the same thing, I prefer to use inactivate because of my medical background, where deactivate was never used as a transitive verb. But it was used in my practical life, to deactivate my credit card and to deactivate my social media account.

The pronunciation for inactivate is ; inaktvt/inakt
verb ; It means to make it dormant or non-functional.

Example : Household bleach does not render the virus inactive.”

The pronunciation for deactivate is : daktvt/Daktvt/Daktvt/Daktv
As a verb it means:  To Disconnect or destroy anything, usually technical equipment or a virus, to render it inert.

For example: “The alarm is deactivated via the switch.”

Disable, defuse, disarm, disconnect, inactivate, make inoperative, immobilise, stop, and turn off are synonyms for disable, defuse, disarm, disconnect, inactivate, make inoperative, immobilise, stop, and turn off.

Both words have antonym activity. While they are used separately in context, the subject and sentence need to be used.

What do you mean by “inactivated”?

In technology, the term “inactivate” is also used frequently. I believe it stems from the fact that “active” and “inactive” are two opposing states, which gives rise to the verbs “activating” and “inactivating.” turn inactive.

It has several meanings as a verb and as an adjective.

Verb: discharge from military service or removal from the active military service list

verb [transitive]

As an adjective:  To make inactive or inoperative 
Example: It is an inactivated polio vaccine

To summarize, Inactivated for cultures of bacteria and viruses in biochemical and biotechnological studies.

A person deactivating his intercom
We use “deactivate” for machinery and other technical equipment.

What does the term “deactivated account” mean?

A deactivated account is equivalent to a closed account. It’s the same as closing a bank or credit card account. The person who owns the account is usually the one who deactivates it. Some people decide to discontinue their use of social media and close their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on.

Some claim it is addictive, and, well, too much of anything isn’t good. So they just deactivate their accounts. Everyone has a personal reason to deactivate their social media account. The same goes for their credit or debit cards.

So, deactivating an account means shutting it off, either for some time or for a longer period.

Have a look at this video to have a better understanding of the word “deactivated.”

Do you know the meaning of deactivating? Check out this video to learn more about it.

Is deactivating synonymous with inactivating?

Inactivation is the suppression of action through a change in form or environment. While Deactivating something means making it inoperable by disconnecting or disassembling it.

The distinction is subtle. 

In practice, inactivate is commonly used in biological sciences, whereas deactivate is commonly used in engineering.

What exactly is inactivated? 

It has two meanings such as;

  • To inactivate the complement of normal serum by destroying certain biological activities.
  • To render (as an infectious agent) bacteria incapable of causing disease.

Other Words Related to Inactivate are turned off or turned on.

Is it inactivated or unactivated?

The distinction between inactive and unactivated as adjectives is that inactive is inactivated, whereas unactivated is not (yet) activated.

Although it is quite complex to memorize all the meanings, remembering the correct version is the easiest.

What are some examples of deactivated in a sentence?

The examples below show some of the usages of “deactivated” in a sentence, and some contextual meanings for this word.

  • If you want to deactivate a computer, usually all you have to do is press the power button.
  • My debit card has been deactivated due to a low balance.
  • I deactivated my Instagram account so that I can focus on my exams in a better way.

These examples will help you better understand the meaning of this word.

Is deactivating the same as Disabling?

No, they are not the same. The difference between deactivate and disable as verbs is that deactivate is to make something inactive or no longer effective, whereas disable is to render someone unable to do so.

As an adjective, disabled means (obsolete)or lack of ability; inability.

In other words, deactivate is to render something inactive or ineffective in order to prevent a biochemical agent such as an enzyme. It means to discharge a person or piece of equipment from active military service.

While, disable refers to render incapable; to take away a capability. We can say that, it means to impair a person’s physical or mental abilities is to cause a serious, permanent injury.

For example, He was rendered disable after falling off the horse. It used to disable an electronic or mechanical device’s function.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the words “deactivated” and “inactivated” are two different words having the same meaning, meaning “not turned off” or “making something less effective.” They have separate meanings if we look at them as a noun and as a verb. They vary in terms of usage from subject to subject. Inactivate is used in terms of biological studies to inactivate a culture medium, be it a virus or a bacteria.

On the other hand, deactivation is used in technical and everyday terms to turn off or cease the effect of technology. For example, we use the word “deactivate” for our bank accounts, social media handles, and other daily usage services. But we never used it in terms of science and research.

Because they both mean the same thing, deactivate and inactivate can be used interchangeably. They have the same antonyms, such as active. There are many synonyms for these words, such as disabled, immobilize, stop, turn off, or disconnect. Thus, it completely depends on the context to opt for the word.

Overall, both these words are considered different in terms of grammar and usage. It depends on which one you choose to use. Most people use inactivate to support their sentences. While some people use deactivate for technical work.

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