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

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 Rather than desensitize soldiers to bad experiences, Boulder Crest helps them grow from their trauma—showing them how their worst experiences can become a catalyst for turning their lives around. Jim Rendon, Marie Claire, "When Female Veterans Return Home," 29 Oct. 2018 Furthermore, the study authors concluded that long term consumption of spicy foods might desensitize people to the sensory effect of hot pepper, so after a while, who knows if those initial benefits would still be possible? Abby Langer, SELF, "5 Diet Tips You Should Ignore, According to a Registered Dietitian," 6 Sep. 2018 But recent research has overturned the popular consensus that mass killers are fueled, inspired or otherwise desensitized to violence by playing violent games. Alex Horton, chicagotribune.com, "'Active Shooter' game lets players fire on a school. Parkland parents are horrified.," 30 May 2018 But recent research has overturned the popular consensus that mass killers are fueled, inspired or otherwise desensitized to violence by playing violent games. Alex Horton, chicagotribune.com, "'Active Shooter' game lets players fire on a school. Parkland parents are horrified.," 30 May 2018 Meth users also may be desensitized to pain, Price said, so using a Taser may not affect them. Alexis Stevens, The Seattle Times, "Georgia tallies meth’s toll: Nearly 20 percent of those killed by police in state test positive for it," 20 Nov. 2018 Another possibility is that those writing to Cruz may be desensitized to violence through their own lives, Ludwig said. Rosa Flores, CNN, "The amount of fan mail the Parkland shooter is receiving is unreal," 29 Mar. 2018

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

18 May 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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