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

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 But Maverick doesn’t have to defy expectations or break the wheel of a Top Gun movie. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 June 2022 This uneasy legacy has caused brands like Lemonade to step up and powerfully disrupt the existing narrative and defy low expectations. Andrew Dunbar, Forbes, 19 May 2022 Still, Lamb has lagged in the polls behind Fetterman and will need to defy expectations to become his party’s nominee. Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY, 17 May 2022 Brady often credits the work of Alex Guerrero, his longtime body coach and TB12 co-founder, with his longevity and his ability to defy expectations as an athlete. Jason Duaine Hahn,, 4 Apr. 2022 Exploring a character — especially a cryptic one whose choices defy expectations — gives him the language to grapple with his own desires. New York Times, 1 Apr. 2022 During Wednesday evening’s (March 2) Billboard Women in Music awards, Karol G accepted the Rule Breaker Award, which honors female artists who use their music and platform to defy expectations. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 2 Mar. 2022 Like Abbott Elementary, Ghosts continues to defy expectations by rising in the ratings each week. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, 20 Feb. 2022 Meadows, who is among those instructed by Trump lawyers to defy congressional subpoenas, has already turned over some records and engaged with the committee through his lawyer, forestalling any potential contempt of Congress action. Billy House, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The elms of Castine defy capture by an amateur like me. Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2022 This feels like a real American family story with characters who have rough edges and defy stereotypes. San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Feb. 2022 In fact, given Black and Latino students’ persistent low achievement in math — and the techniques used in districts that have higher success rates — aspects of the change defy logic. oregonlive, 4 Feb. 2022 Fortunately, some qualities of the Gravity 9 defy experience and form. Adam Chase, Outside Online, 3 Mar. 2020 To produce acts that defy expectations, performances must consistently push the boundaries of imagination. Karl Moore, Forbes, 20 Jan. 2022 The potential deals would boost the economy and defy predictions that remote work will kill offices. Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Nov. 2021 What’s happening right now, as recalcitrant witnesses like Steve Bannon defy subpoenas in a collective effort among Trump allies to sandbag the commission, should be instructive for the Biden administration. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 19 Oct. 2021 Eureka is one to break molds and defy expectations. Joey Nolfi,, 31 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

21 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for defy


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on defy

Nglish: Translation of defy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defy for Arabic Speakers


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