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

Bohemian design is generally inspired by those who lead a free-spirited, norm-defying life, like travelers, writers, artists, etc. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "Everything You Need To Know About Bohemian Design," 19 Oct. 2018 What this means: Though PCs have continued to defy expectations and maintain flat to slight sales growth—overall shipments increased 0.1 percent this quarter, Gartner says—the wild card will be Intel and its available CPUs. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft cracks the top 5 U.S. PC vendors, but Intel CPU shortages could bring more change," 11 Oct. 2018 Zaha Hadid Design The late architect Zaha Hadid is best known for her swooping, gravity-defying buildings, but her firm has also designed plenty of homewares including coffee tables, vases, chairs, and now rugs. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Zaha Hadid’s famous designs reimagined as 22 brightly colored rugs," 2 Oct. 2018 The judge added requirements in 2016 after finding Arpaio and three of his aides in civil contempt of court for defying orders. Rebekah L. Sanders, azcentral, "Maricopa County cuts spending, but property tax bills will still rise," 26 June 2018 The Jackass auteur is back to his old death-defying, body-injuring tricks in his new ostensible comedy that (surprise) opened sans advance press screenings. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Action Point': Film Review," 1 June 2018 In many ways, Shelley was punished for defying expectations., "Why Saudi Arabia’s First Woman Director Only Makes Movies About Trailblazers," 29 May 2018 Burthe was immediately suspended by Public Safety Commissioner Sam Stone, who wrote the judge a letter saying he was prepared to remove Burthe from office for defying his orders. James Karst,, "Scandal and corruption in the ashes of Storyville," 29 Apr. 2018 Includes seven world-premiere workshop performances of theatre and genre-defying performances. Mark Rapp,, "Cleveland Arts listings for April 20-26: Akron Symphony Orchestra presents "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert" & More," 19 Apr. 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

2 Dec 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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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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a nest or breeding place

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