de·fy | \di-ˈfī, 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, ˈdē-ˌ \
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


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

Yet in recent years, a number of South Florida restaurant companies have created thriving local groups or chains, defying the odds in this notoriously tough industry. Nancy Dahlberg, miamiherald, "The odds are stacked against success stories like these," 10 June 2018 With Tony Soprano in 1999, an era began in which viewers embraced thorny leading characters, defying the common network belief that viewers could only handle extremely bad guys and extremely good guys. Matthew Gilbert,, "The best villains on TV," 6 July 2018 The Recovering creates it own grainy context, defying all the usual tropes of addiction memoirs. Daphne Merkin, The New Republic, "How Leslie Jamison rejected the link between creativity and alcoholism," 5 July 2018 That picture was one of the surprises of summer 2015, defying expectations by refusing to give in to summer-blockbuster excess. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp Has Stakes as Small as Its Superheroes But It’s Hard to Dislike," 3 July 2018 Certainly the memories of those Americans who were held as slaves defy any effort to minimize their suffering, but for most in the 13 colonies things were not that intolerable at all. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "The new trustbusters," 3 July 2018 Posing for a series of Instagram photos, Beyoncé showcased her new dramatic top-knot style, where hair was twisted and tied up into a gravity defying updo. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Of Course, Beyoncé Has the Perfect Summer Updo on Lock," 1 July 2018 Marijuana use continues to drop, defying legalization opponents’ predictions of what would happen after states began legalizing the drug. Christopher Ingraham,, "Teens' Risky Behavior: They're Not Eating Their Veggies," 21 June 2018 If Trump can only defy GOP orthodoxies through executive actions — as opposed to legislative ones — then his ideological innovations are bound to be limited, and likely, ephemeral. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Has Not Transformed the Republican Party – Yet," 14 June 2018

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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Statistics for defy

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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



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 \
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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Comments on defy

What made you want to look up defy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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