desensitize

verb
de·​sen·​si·​tize | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈsen(t)-sə-ˌtīz How to pronounce desensitize (audio) \
desensitized; desensitizing; desensitizes

Definition of desensitize

transitive verb

1 : to make (a sensitized or hypersensitive individual) insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent
2 : to make emotionally insensitive or callous specifically : to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it

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Other Words from desensitize

desensitization \ (ˌ)dē-​ˌsen(t)-​sə-​tə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce desensitization (audio) \ noun
desensitizer \ (ˌ)dē-​ˈsen-​sə-​ˌtī-​zər How to pronounce desensitizer (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Physical desensitizing is something that biologists have long been aware of. Basic training in the armed forces tries to desensitize new recruits to pain. We can desensitize ourselves to the summer heat by turning off the air conditioning, or become desensitized to the cold by walking barefoot in the snow. But desensitize is more often used when talking about negative emotions. Parents worry that their children will be desensitized to violence by playing video games. Soldiers may become desensitized to death on the battlefield. Desensitizing may be natural and desirable under some circumstances, but maybe not so good in others.

Examples of desensitize in a Sentence

The shot will help to desensitize the nerve.

Recent Examples on the Web

Running out various scenarios might be helpful, to desensitize you to the possibility of encountering your ex. Amy Dickinson, The Denver Post, "Ask Amy: Woman fears running into her hometown abuser," 29 July 2019 Running out various scenarios might be helpful, to desensitize you to the possibility of encountering your ex. Ask Amy, oregonlive.com, "Ask Amy: Website unearths half-sibling, a secret their parents took to the grave," 29 July 2019 Running out various scenarios might be helpful, to desensitize you to the possibility of encountering your ex. Amy Dickinson, chicagotribune.com, "Ask Amy: Woman fears running into her hometown abuser," 29 July 2019 As well as becoming desensitized to Trump, there's also a sense that Britain is engulfed in so much chaos of its own that the visiting president was more of a sideshow. NBC News, "Trump's U.K. visit had its thrills and spills but not the drama some expected," 6 June 2019 Julius theorizes that after triggering an initial burning sensation, capsaicin can have the longer-term effect of desensitizing the TRPV1 channel, as well as the nerve fiber at large, silencing these pain sensing nerves. Quanta Magazine, "Scientists Reveal Structure of Pain Sensor," 20 Feb. 2014 As Hannah Arendt taught us in Eichmann in Jerusalem, perpetrators depend on us being desensitized to the victims’ suffering. Anna Lind-guzik, Vox, "I’m a Jewish historian. Yes, we should call border detention centers “concentration camps.”," 20 June 2019 Use a soft-bristled toothbrush (preferably electric) as well as a desensitizing toothpaste. Joanne Chen, Redbook, "Teeth: An Owner's Manual," 24 July 2017 But the tactic changed, as more advertisers drove up prices and users grew desensitized to social-media ads, according to Mr. Normandin. Nat Ives, WSJ, "Facebook’s Pivot to Messaging Puts Advertisers In a Tight Spot," 8 Mar. 2019

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

1898, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near desensitize

desegregation

deselect

desemer

desensitize

Deseret

desert

desert armor

Statistics for desensitize

Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for desensitize

The first known use of desensitize was in 1898

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More Definitions for desensitize

desensitize

verb

English Language Learners Definition of desensitize

: to cause (someone or something) to react less to or be less affected by something : to cause (someone or something) to be less sensitive

desensitize

transitive verb
de·​sen·​si·​tize
variants: also British desensitise \ (ˈ)dē-​ˈsen(t)-​sə-​ˌtīz How to pronounce desensitise (audio) \
desensitized also British desensitised; desensitizing also British desensitising

Medical Definition of desensitize

: to make less sensitive : reduce sensitivity in desensitize a nerve with a local anesthetic : as
a : to make (a sensitized or hypersensitive individual) insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent
b : to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli which formerly induced it : make emotionally insensitive evidence that violence on television desensitizes children to actual violence— Stephanie Harrington
c : to decrease a response (as of a cell receptor) progressively following prolonged exposure to a stimulus formation of cAMP was reduced significantly in desensitized cells and remained low in the continuous presence of agonist— S. M. Nilius et al

Other Words from desensitize

desensitization also British desensitisation \ (ˌ)dē-​ˌsen-​sət-​ə-​ˈzā-​shən, -​ˌsen-​stə-​ˈzā-​ How to pronounce desensitisation (audio) \ noun

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with desensitize

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