Synonyms of defile

(Entry 1 of 2)

a narrow opening between hillsides or mountains that can be used for passage
  • the cattle, once they were cornered in the defile, were quickly rounded up

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Synonyms & Antonyms of defile (Entry 2 of 2)

1 to make unfit for use by the addition of something harmful or undesirable
  • supplies of meat that had been defiled by maggots

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Antonyms for defile

2 to treat (a sacred place or object) shamefully or with great disrespect
  • art conservators were careful not to do anything that might defile the holy relic

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Frequently Asked Questions About defile

How does the verb defile contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of defile are contaminate, pollute, and taint. While all these words mean "to make impure or unclean," defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration.

defile a hero's memory with slanderous innuendo

When is contaminate a more appropriate choice than defile?

The meanings of contaminate and defile largely overlap; however, contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source.

water contaminated by industrial wastes

When is it sensible to use pollute instead of defile?

While in some cases nearly identical to defile, pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, distinctively may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy.

the polluted waters of the river

When could taint be used to replace defile?

The synonyms taint and defile are sometimes interchangeable, but taint stresses the loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contamination.

tainted meat

a politician's tainted reputation

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The first known use of defile was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Defile.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on defile

Nglish: Translation of defile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defile for Arabic Speakers


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