verb (1)
de·​file | \ di-ˈfī(-ə)l How to pronounce defile (audio) , dē- \
defiled; defiling

Definition of defile

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make unclean or impure: such as
a : to corrupt the purity or perfection of : debase the countryside defiled by billboards
b : to violate the chastity or virginity of : deflower
c : to make physically unclean especially with something unpleasant or contaminating boots defiled with blood … I had never allowed anyone to smoke in the truck. Drunk as I was, I knew that I was betraying something by allowing him to defile the truck's interior.— Patrick Moore
d : to violate the sanctity of : desecrate defile a sanctuary went to jail for costuming themselves in the American flag and thus defiling it— James R. Gaines
e : sully, dishonor defile his reputation


de·​file | \ di-ˈfī(-ə)l How to pronounce defile (audio) , ˈdē-ˌfī(-ə)l How to pronounce defile (audio) \

Definition of defile (Entry 2 of 3)

: a narrow passage (as between hills, rocks, or cliffs) : gorge entry 1 … come to us from a narrow defile in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy, a place called the Great St. Bernard Pass.— Michael Olmert


verb (2)
de·​file | \ di-ˈfī(-ə)l How to pronounce defile (audio) , ˈdē-ˌfī(-ə)l How to pronounce defile (audio) \
defiled; defiling

Definition of defile (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to march off in a line … breaks out into a brave and glorious description of the forces, as they defiled through the principal gate of the city …— Washington Irving

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Other Words from defile

Verb (1)

defilement \ di-​ˈfī(-​ə)l-​mənt How to pronounce defile (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
defiler \ di-​ˈfī-​lər How to pronounce defile (audio) , dē-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for defile

Synonyms: Verb (1)

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb (1)

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Choose the Right Synonym for defile

Verb (1)

contaminate, taint, pollute, defile mean to make impure or unclean. contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source. water contaminated by industrial wastes taint stresses the loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contamination. tainted meat a politician's tainted reputation pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, distinctively may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy. the polluted waters of the river defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration. defile a hero's memory with slanderous innuendo

Examples of defile in a Sentence

Noun the cattle, once they were cornered in the defile, were quickly rounded up
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The quick answer is that seven-inning games defile the traditions of what has been America’s most-traditional game. Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune, "MLB's future can't include both 7-inning games and split doubleheaders," 15 Aug. 2020 Both journeys displayed how the forest was being defiled and colonised by outsiders: rubber-seekers who bled the trees and massacred the tribes, crazed religious sects. The Economist, "The wisdom of the forest Antonio Bolívar died on April 30th," 28 May 2020 Drug gangs kill with impunity, leaving their enemies’ defiled corpses displayed as warnings. Lorena Rios,, "Woman’s Grisly Murder in Mexico Puts AMLO on the Defensive," 11 Feb. 2020 In most hacks that defile our computers, tablets, and cellphones, a traditional vector is through new code that is introduced and executed. Frank O’brien, Ars Technica, "A deep dive into the Apollo Guidance Computer, and the hack that saved Apollo 14," 30 Jan. 2020 Krystal wouldn’t be defiled this early Tuesday morning — not after that Monday night. Michael Casagrande |, al, "A late-night walk down Bourbon Street as NOLA rejoices LSU title," 14 Jan. 2020 Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish soldiers, who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and defiled the Jerusalem Temple. Madeline Mitchell,, "Fountain Square to kick off Hanukkah celebration with 18-foot menorah," 20 Dec. 2019 Pompeo failed to rise to the defense of Yovanovitch, who says baseless rumors defiling her were fed to Trump by his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Los Angeles Times, "Those career diplomats reviled by Trump are providing the evidence that could be used to impeach him," 23 Oct. 2019 The Seleucids captured the holy Temple and defiled it by erecting an altar to the Greek god Zeus inside. Amy Briggs, National Geographic, "Hanukkah: How an ancient revolt sparked the Festival of Lights," 19 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Between Evergreen and Conifer Maxwell Creek slides north through a trailside defile, trembles through boulders in watery segments, and slips over black granite blocks in shimmery sheets at Maxwell Falls. Danika Worthington, The Know, "5 waterfall hikes near Denver to re-energize yourself," 19 June 2020 The 27-year-old Woodbridge man was arrested and charged with abduction with intent to defile and burglary. Ria Manglapus And Lisa M. Bolton, Washington Post, "Prince William crime report," 30 Oct. 2019 Rather than simple abduction, Fairfax prosecutors charged Hughes with abduction with intent to defile, which carried a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. Tom Jackman, Washington Post, "Fairfax police still seek killer of 5-year-old Melissa Brannen, who vanished in 1989," 10 Dec. 2019 The easier higher slopes gave way below the timberline to defiles lined with tree roots and narrow ravines. Simon Akam, Outside Online, "You Won’t Pass Chamonix’s Mountain Guiding Test," 27 Nov. 2019 From the open valley of the Río Chaschuil, the road suddenly plunged into narrow defiles where the rock was blushed with surreal mineral colors—crimson, verdigris, malachite, violet. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "From Buenos Aires to the Chilean Coast: A Road Trip Across South America," 22 Aug. 2019 The path traces a gentle stream into a narrow defile framed by soaring cliffs. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "10 best hikes in Arizona show off state's diverse scenery," 13 July 2018 The path traces a gentle stream into a narrow defile framed by soaring cliffs. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "10 best hikes in Arizona show off state's diverse scenery," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defile.' 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 defile

Verb (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined above


1685, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

1705, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defile

Verb (1)

Middle English, alteration (influenced by filen to defile, from Old English fȳlan) of defoilen to trample, defile, from Anglo-French defoiller, defuler, to trample, from de- + fuller, foller to trample, literally, to full — more at full


French défilé, from past participle of défiler — see defile entry 3

Verb (2)

French défiler, from dé- de- + filer to move in a column — more at file

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Time Traveler for defile

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The first known use of defile was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Defile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for defile



English Language Learners Definition of defile

formal : a narrow passage through mountains
de·​file | \ di-ˈfīl How to pronounce defile (audio) \
defiled; defiling

Legal Definition of defile

: to dishonor by physical acts (as trampling, dirtying, or mutilating) defiling the flag

Other Words from defile

defilement noun
defiler noun

Comments on defile

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