de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) , dē- \
defied; defying

Definition of defy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to confront with assured power of resistance : disregard defy public opinion in trouble for defying a court order
2 : to resist attempts at : withstand the paintings defy classification a decision that defies all logic
3 : to challenge to do something considered impossible : dare defied us to name a better movie
4 archaic : to challenge to combat


de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) , ˈdē-ˌfī How to pronounce defy (audio) \
plural defies

Definition of defy (Entry 2 of 2)

: challenge, defiance observers took this to be a form of defy— Jack Alexander

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Synonyms & Antonyms for defy

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of defy in a Sentence

Verb She defied her parents and dropped out of school. The group has continued to defy all efforts to stop them.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Restaurants and bars in pockets around the state have decided to defy the order and have opened for business, and others are making plans to open soon. Kevin Bessler, Washington Examiner, "Pritzker says he has authority to extend a stay-at-home order," 15 May 2020 Lax quarantine measures are leading to rising contagion as Mr. Bolsonaro urges Brazilian workers to effectively defy local lockdown orders from states and municipalities. Ernesto Londoño, New York Times, "Another Health Minister in Brazil Exits Amid Chaotic Coronavirus Response," 15 May 2020 The nonprofit will also allocate some funds for legal defense if other businesses choose to defy governmental orders like Luther did, Langston said. Charles Scudder, Dallas News, "Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther starts nonprofit to support small businesses," 12 May 2020 The question is whether he's underestimated the lengths to which leaders of key states will go to defy him. Kathleen Hunter,, "It’s Trump Versus the States as Virus Rages On," 10 May 2020 But the 160,000-population Yuba City metro area, the largest place to defy the stay-at-home directive, is the only area that appears to have been hit with consequences, Kurtis Alexander reports. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: SF confronts Tenderloin tent crisis amid pandemic," 7 May 2020 The situation is so dire that Graham is planning to defy Gov. Kate Brown’s orders and reopen Tuesday morning. Mike Benner, oregonlive, "Salem salon plans to defy coronavirus closure, reopen for business," 5 May 2020 Shady adware and even banking trojans have managed over the years to repeatedly defy Google's security checks. Andy Greenberg, Wired, "How Spies Snuck Malware Into the Google Play Store—Again and Again," 28 Apr. 2020 View this post on Instagram A post shared by Megan Stott (@itsmeganstott) on Jan 1, 2020 at 11:35am PST The scene set the tone for Elena's selfish expectations for her daughter, and Izzy's desire to defy them. Aimee Simeon,, "The Real Reason Kerry Washington Wears A Nose Ring In Little Fires Everywhere," 17 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of defy


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defy


Middle English defien "to renounce, disavow, scorn, challenge to fight," borrowed from Anglo-French defier, desfier, from de-, des- de- + fier "to pledge, trust in, rely on," going back to Vulgar Latin *fīdāre, re-formation of Latin fīdere "to trust (in), have confidence (in)" — more at faith entry 1

Note: The sense history was perhaps "to break faith with" > "to scorn" > "to challenge to a fight," though the latter meaning appears to be the earliest in Old French.


in part borrowed from Middle French deffy, noun derivative of defier "to challenge, defy entry 1," in part derivative of defy entry 1

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Time Traveler for defy

Time Traveler

The first known use of defy was in the 14th century

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Statistics for defy

Last Updated

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for defy


How to pronounce defy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of defy

: to refuse to obey (something or someone)
: to make (something) very difficult or impossible
: to resist or fight (something)


de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) \
defied; defying

Kids Definition of defy

1 : to refuse boldly to obey or yield to The protesters defied orders to leave.
2 : to challenge to do something thought to be impossible : dare I defy you to explain the trick.
3 : to resist attempts at : withstand The scene defies description.

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More from Merriam-Webster on defy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for defy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defy

Spanish Central: Translation of defy

Nglish: Translation of defy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defy for Arabic Speakers

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