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 descripion 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 defilement (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
defiler \ di-​ˈfī-​lər How to pronounce defiler (audio) , dē-​ \ noun

Synonyms for defile

Synonyms: Noun

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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 song describes a royal procession during the Raj Jat—a pilgrimage held in the region every 12 years to worship the goddess Nanda Devi—that defiled the holy landscape with dancing girls. Kristin Romey, National Geographic, "DNA study deepens mystery of lake full of skeletons," 20 Aug. 2019 Pornography destroys the purity of the mind of the individual and defiles the conscience of the Nation. Leah Sottile, Longreads, "Chapter Five: The Remnant," 20 July 2019 Always expect to be disturbed, defiled and maybe even delighted. Katie Walsh, Twin Cities, "Brilliant ‘Midsommar’ lets the sunshine in to horror," 4 July 2019 Witnesses at the mosque said Abdelrhim Abdelghani shoved his way in at about 4 p.m., swiped a Quran off a shelf, took it to the nearby intersection of Northwest Fourth Avenue and Northwest 15th Vista and began defiling and blaspheming the holy book. Tonya Alanez,, "Atheist Broward man causes scene at Boca Raton mosque after blaming it for ex’s suicide attempt, cops say," 26 June 2019 Other cities defiled their lakefronts, but Chicago didn’t. John Kass,, "With judge's ruling, Obama gets his lakefront Temple of Love," 12 June 2019 Included in the definition of criminal trespass is the defacing, mutilating or defiling any grave marker, monument, or memorial to one or more deceased persons who served in the military service. Fox News, "Video from 2011 creates headaches for Sinema," 12 Oct. 2018 And there might have been just a little pity for the desperate, cornered liar who’d defiled his office. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Reflections on Impeachment, 20 Years Later," 29 Nov. 2018 Allegiances shift and high jinks ensue as our cursing, sword-swinging protagonist gets incarcerated, blown up, shot, stabbed, defiled and maimed in order to do the right thing. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Review: Delightfully wacky 'Deadpool 2' raises the superhero bar from hit original," 14 May 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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More Definitions for defile


How to pronounce defile (audio) How to pronounce defile (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on defile

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for defile

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defile

Spanish Central: Translation of defile

Nglish: Translation of defile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defile for Arabic Speakers

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