loos·​en | \ ˈlü-sᵊn How to pronounce loosen (audio) \
loosened; loosening\ ˈlüs-​niŋ How to pronounce loosening (audio) , 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

Officials in Saudi Arabia are working to loosen tourism restrictions this year for foreign visitors including Americans, people involved in the effort said, easing travel to help diversify the economy of the cloistered kingdom. Michael Amon, WSJ, "Cloistered Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Aims to Ease Entry for Tourists," 5 Mar. 2019 Axios reported this week that on Thursday afternoon the agency will announce its intent to loosen Obama-era restrictions on how much carbon dioxide new coal power plants can emit. Umair Irfan, Vox, "The EPA plans to lift greenhouse gas limits on coal power plants," 6 Dec. 2018 Photo: Huang Jingwen/Xinhua/Associated Press In recent weeks, Pyongyang has been signaling that Washington should loosen the broad sanctions hobbling North Korea’s economy. Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "North Korea and China Project Unity in Face of Stalled Nuclear Talks With U.S.," 10 Jan. 2019 And understanding that storms will be larger and more powerful in the future can inform rebuilding efforts after the hurricane has passed, even when the current administration has loosened building regulations in flood-prone areas. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Hurricane Florence will dump up to 50 percent more rainfall due to climate change," 13 Sep. 2018 Over the course of her career, Saudi Arabia’s policies toward the arts have loosened. refinery29.com, "Why Saudi Arabia’s First Woman Director Only Makes Movies About Trailblazers," 29 May 2018 The English were particularly susceptible, believing that a direct path to China would loosen Spain’s grip on the Asian spice trade. Porter Fox, Outside Online, "The Best New Books About Epic Expeditions," 19 Apr. 2018 Ford has announced a recall of nearly 1.4 million midsize cars in North America after finding that the steering wheel bolts can loosen over time and potentially detach, causing the driver to lose control of the car. Lindsey Murray, Good Housekeeping, "Ford Recalls 1.4 Million Cars After Finding Steering Wheels Can Fall Off," 14 Mar. 2018 The youths’ activism has drawn signs of action in the state capital, long controlled by Republicans who have consistently loosened gun laws over the past two decades. Steven Lemongello, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Young activists take the point on gun debate," 22 Feb. 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

13 Mar 2019

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 How to pronounce loosen (audio) \
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

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Spanish Central: Translation of loosen

Nglish: Translation of loosen for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of loosen for Arabic Speakers

Comments on loosen

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