Alteration of devest, from Middle French devester (strip of possessions), from Old French desvestir, from des- (dis-) + vestir (to clothe).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /daɪˈvɛst/, /dɪˈvɛst/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛst



divest (third-person singular simple present divests, present participle divesting, simple past and past participle divested)

  1. (transitive) To strip, deprive, or dispossess (someone) of something (such as a right, passion, privilege, or prejudice).
    Synonyms: deprive, dispossess
    You shall never divest me of my right to free speech.
    When I wake up, I make a point to divest myself of all my prejudices, ready to start the day.
  2. (transitive, finance) To sell off or be rid of through sale, especially of a subsidiary.
    Synonym: sell off
    Antonym: invest
    In 2011, the company divested an 81% majority stake in its foreign subsidiary.
    Glasgow will become the first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels.
    • 2011, Alfred Schipke, Why Do Governments Divest?: The Macroeconomics of Privatization, Springer Science & Business Media, →ISBN, page 6:
      It is argued that from a fiscal point of view, governments should divest only if this leads to an improvement in the intertemporal budget constraint. However, it is shown that policymakers are instead inclined to divest public assets as a means of []
    • 2018, Ravi Kanbur, Henry Shue, Climate Justice: Integrating Economics and Philosophy, Oxford University Press, USA, →ISBN, page 146:
      Building from this argument, we can now turn to arguing the moral case why individuals should divest from fossil fuels. We can flesh out what is wrong with continuing investments in the fossil fuel industry in terms of the role that an agent []
  3. (transitive, archaic) To undress.
    Synonyms: undress, disrobe
    Antonym: dress
    • 1897, Henry James, What Maisie Knew:
      Having divested the child he kissed her gently and gave her a little pat to make her stand off.

Usage notes


In sense "sell off", stronger than related disinvest, which instead means "reduce or cease new investment".

Derived terms