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Synonym Chooser

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


Thesaurus Entries Near defile

Cite this Entry

“Defile.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

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