verb (used with object), can·ni·bal·ized, can·ni·bal·iz·ing.
- to subject to cannibalism.
- to remove parts, equipment, assets, employees, etc., from (an item, product, or business) in order to use them in another: to cannibalize old airplanes for replacement parts.
- to cut into; cause to become reduced; diminish: New products introduced in the next six months will cannibalize sales from established lines.
verb (used without object), can·ni·bal·ized, can·ni·bal·iz·ing.
- to act cannibalistically; practice cannibalism.
- (tr) to use (serviceable parts from one machine or vehicle) to repair another, esp as an alternative to using new parts
by 1907, noun of action from cannibalize.
1798 (in Burke’s memoirs), figurative, and meaning “be perverted into cannibalism,” from cannibal + -ize. Meaning “take parts from one construction and use them in another” is from 1943, originally of military equipment. Related: Cannibalized; cannibalizing.