loos·​en | \ˈlü-sᵊn \
loosened; loosening\ˈlüs-​niŋ, ˈlü-​sᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of loosen 

transitive verb

1 : to release from restraint

2 : to make looser loosened his tie loosen a screw

3 : to relieve (the bowels) of constipation

4 : to cause or permit to become less strict often used with up loosened the rules

intransitive verb

: to become loose or looser

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Synonyms & Antonyms for loosen


ease, relax, slack, slacken


strain, stretch, tense, tension, tighten

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Examples of loosen in a Sentence

He used a spade to loosen the soil. She loosened the cake from the sides of the pan. After eating so much I had to loosen my belt. When the meeting was over he loosened his tie. One of the screws had loosened a bit and had to be tightened. Each generation seems to loosen the established standards of behavior. Standards of behavior seem to be loosening everywhere.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Proponents say that by loosening rules affecting smaller lenders, credit will flow more freely and community banks will be able to compete better with industry giants. Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor, "Post-crisis banking rules: now altered but not undone," 30 June 2018 The central bank has tended to shrug off rising prices, but the trend could limit its room for loosening monetary policy in coming months. Annabelle Liang, The Seattle Times, "Asian shares gain, but inflation drags on Chinese benchmarks," 16 Oct. 2018 Dashcam footage captured the moment a car in Sichuan, China, was hit by a giant boulder that was loosened from a cliff by heavy rains. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "Car crushed by falling boulder in shocking video," 19 July 2018 To put this right will require loosening labour laws, reforming the courts, investing in education and infrastructure, and attacking corruption. The Economist, "Italy’s populists are more dangerous than they seem," 17 May 2018 Ryan Blaney, who started second, loosened Larson in the ensuing lap, the exchange effectively dropping both of them from contention. Sam Mcdowell, kansascity, "Wild finish puts Kevin Harvick as KC Masterpiece 400 winner | The Kansas City Star," 12 May 2018 The San Francisco Police Officer’s Association is pushing a controversial measure on the June ballot that would loosen the department’s policy on Taser stun guns when officers get the weapons starting this year. Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle, "Taser campaign deceptive, Prop. H opponents say," 4 May 2018 Kasich, who has signed several bills to loosen Ohio's gun laws, recently changed his mind about gun control. Chrissie Thompson, Cincinnati.com, "Ohio Republicans take up John Kasich's 'commonsense' gun control ideas," 5 Apr. 2018 Gun-control efforts at Capitol often fail Ducey's foray into the gun-control issue is a significant development for a Republican governor in Arizona, where the conservative Legislature typically pushes to loosen gun laws. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, azcentral, "Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey goes on tweetstorm over gun control, one day after student sit-in," 15 Mar. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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Statistics for loosen

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for loosen

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

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More Definitions for loosen



English Language Learners Definition of loosen

: to make (something) less tight or firm : to make (something) loose or looser

: to become less tight or firm : to become loose or looser

: to become or to cause (something) to become less strict


loos·​en | \ˈlü-sᵊn \
loosened; loosening

Kids Definition of loosen

: to make or become less tight or firmly fixed Can you loosen this screw? His grip loosened.

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More from Merriam-Webster on loosen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for loosen

Spanish Central: Translation of loosen

Nglish: Translation of loosen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of loosen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on loosen

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


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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