‘Deactivate' or ‘Inactivate': Which is Correct?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 25, 2023

Are you wondering whether 'deactivate' or 'inactivate' is correct? If so, you are in the right place.

In this guide, you will explain which is correct and why. Then, I will give you the definition, pronunciation, and sample sentences with the right word to help you remember the spelling.

Are you in a rush?

If so, here is a short answer: 

  • 'Deactivate' is the accurate spelling of the verb word meaning to turn off or make inactive. 
  • 'Inactivate' is a misspelling. 

Keep reading to discover why 'deactivate' is correct and why people confuse the two.

Which is Correct, 'Deactivate' or 'Inactivate?'

Out of these terms, only the first is correct. The word consists of a base word, activate, and a prefix. De- is the prefix used to indicate that something is off or down.

  • Activate means to turn something on or make it operational.
  • So, 'deactivate' means to shut something down.

Some people may confuse these words because inactive is an adjective that means something is not in operation.

How Do You Use 'Deactivate?'

Now you know the correct spelling and why 'deactivate' is correct. But how do you know when to use the term?

  • Use 'deactivate' when asking someone to perform the action of turning machinery.

For example, you could say:

Please deactivate the machine by performing the shutdown procedure. 

  • Use 'deactivate' when you are talking about canceling an account.

For example, I might say:

Please deactivate my account after you draft this month's payment. I have not used the service in over six months, and it is costing me money each month. 

  • Use 'deactivate' when discussing neutralizing chemicals or active ingredients.

For example, your science teacher might tell you:

Please pour the powder into the liquid to deactivate it before you throw it in the trash can. 

  • Use 'deactivate' when referring to a program that will no longer be in effect.

For example, you could say:

The company decided to deactivate the rewards program with no prior notice.

  • Use 'deactivate' to describe something that is no longer active.

For example, you may hear someone say:

 My room card did not work. When I returned to the front desk to get another one, the clerk told me not to put my key next to my phone because it could deactivate it. 

Definition of 'Deactivate': What Does 'Deactivate' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'deactivate' is a verb meaning:

  • To make  inactive

It can also mean:

  • To make ineffective
  • To neutralize something
  • To turn off
  • To cancel

Synonyms of 'Deactivate'

Learning synonyms for words you use often or have to include in longer articles is a good idea. Knowing alternate words you can use helps you avoid a monotonous tone when you are writing.

  • Kill
  • Cancel
  • Void
  • Neutralize
  • Dismantle
  • Cut off
  • Switch off
  • Jam
  • Phase out
  • Shut down
  • Shut off
  • Turn off
  • Stall
  • Stop

Antonyms of 'Deactivate'

Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. Check out the antonyms for 'deactivate' below:

  • Activate
  • Start
  • Power on
  • Turn on
  • Trigger
  • Set off
  • Initiate
  • Actuate
  • Reactivate
  • Drive
  • Generate
  • Fire
  • Recharge
  • Restart
  • Revive
  • Electrify
  • Animate
  • Switch on

Related Phrases and Terms

Here are a few phrases you may see containing the term.

  • Deactivate your account
  • Deactivate your phone
  • Deactivate the machine
  • Deactivate your card

Pronunciation: How Do You Pronounce 'Deactivate?'

Learning to pronounce terms correctly helps you speak and write with confidence. When you are unsure how to pronounce a word, you may hesitate to use it.

So, here is a pronunciation guide:

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'deactivate' correctly:


Sample Sentences Using 'Deactivate'

Now you know how to spell and pronounce the term. So, look at these sentence examples with 'deactivate' to ensure you understand how and when to use it.


  • Do you think that organizations should deactivate AI programs that become sentient?
  • Have you considered deactivating your account?
  • I rarely use social media, so I do not know if I would even notice if I deactivated my account.
  • Add the blue-colored solution to deactivate the corrosive ingredients.
  • You do not have to deactivate your account immediately. You can put it on pause for a while first.
  • After you deactivate the robot, we will examine it to determine what went wrong. If we can repair it, we will reactivate it.
  • Deactivating your account is permanent. If you change your mind, you will need to sign up again. You can't simply reactivate your account.
  • When you fire an employee, you have to make sure you deactivate their employee access card. Otherwise, they will still be able to access the building.
  • Make sure that you deactivate their card after you terminate them. If you deactivate it beforehand, they may suspect something when their card is inactive.
  • How do you deactivate the machine? Do I need to follow the steps to shut down the equipment before switching it off?
  • If you deactivate your card, you must have them issue a new one. It only takes a few minutes, but it is inconvenient if you need to get into your room in a hurry.
  • He found the only way to protect people from the rogue robot was to deactivate its connection to the network.

The Last Word on 'Deactivate' or 'Inactivate'

If you have to decide between 'deactivate' or 'inactivate,' you should know which is correct.

But just to be sure, here is a recap: 

  • 'Deactivate' is the correct spelling of the verb meaning to make inactive. 
  • 'Inactivate' is a misspelling of 'deactivate' or 'inactive.'

People often confuse these spellings because the verb 'deactivate' and the adjective 'inactive' have similar meanings. So, if you ever need clarification on the two, you can always return to this lesson for a quick review.

You can also learn how to correctly spell and define other commonly misused English words by reading the other confusing word guides here. They are also an excellent way to expand your vocabulary and learn how to pronounce words correctly.

So, be sure to check them out whether you are learning English as a second language or trying to improve as a writer.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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