defy

verb
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

defy

noun
de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) , ˈdē-ˌ 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

disobey, mock, rebel (against)

Antonyms: Verb

comply (with), conform (to), follow, mind, obey

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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

While mounting a mountain rescue in dicey conditions in the French Alps, members of the French Mountain Police (PGHM) put their helicopter in a position that seemingly defies physics. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Helicopter Pulls Off Improbable Rescue Mission in the French Alps," 10 Jan. 2019 Statues that defy comprehensive scale—especially for the time—are plentiful. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Assassin’s Creed Odyssey," 4 Oct. 2018 Meredith and Christina gave us a whole new vocabulary for describing a close friendship that defies traditional boundaries: your person. Anna Millard, refinery29.com, "Ellen Pompeo’s Reaction To Sandra Oh’s Emmy Nom Has Grey’s Fans Celebrating," 14 July 2018 The novel is actually more genre-defying than genre-creating. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "How Laura Sims Turned the “Torturous Limbo” of Infertility Into Fascinating Fiction," 11 Jan. 2019 There currently simply seem to be too many crises in global trade for the German export sector to defy them. WSJ, "European Forex and Fixed Income Market Talk Roundup," 9 Jan. 2019 Among the early celebrants is Cardi B, whose latest beauty look defies traditions typically associated with winter (no dark dye job or deep nail polish here). Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Cardi B Embraces Early Spring With a Coordinated Pastel Beauty Look," 2 Feb. 2019 These women defied the one-dimensional tropes often allotted to minorities thanks to filmmaking worthy of their talent. Kyndall Cunningham, Glamour, "The Oscar Race Is All About Gaga vs. Glenn—But What About Women of Color?," 22 Jan. 2019 Defensively, the Seahawks defied expectations, but still had their shortcomings. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "Pete Carroll doesn’t seem satisfied with 10-6 and the playoffs, and knows offseason work is needed," 8 Jan. 2019

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

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Noun

1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defy

Verb

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.

Noun

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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Statistics for defy

Last Updated

11 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for defy

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

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More Definitions for defy

defy

verb

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)

defy

verb
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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for defy

Spanish Central: Translation of defy

Nglish: Translation of defy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on defy

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