: to march off in a line
The generals gazed on impassively as the troops defiled past.
"He watched as the troops defiled across the bridge; their thinned ranks made a noticeable impression on the monarch." — Michael V. Leggiere, Napoleon and the Struggle for Germany, 2015
Did You Know?
It's likely that when you hear the verb defile, what comes to mind is not troop movements but, rather, something being contaminated or desecrated. That more commonly encountered homograph of defile, meaning "to make unclean or impure," dates back to the 15th century and is derived from the Anglo-French verb defoiller, meaning "to trample." Today's word, on the other hand, arrived in English in the early 18th century. It is also from French but is derived from the verb défiler, formed by combining dé- with filer ("to move in a column"). Défiler is also the source of the English noun defile, which means "narrow passage or gorge."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a French-derived English verb meaning "to march out into open ground": d _ b _ _ ch.VIEW THE ANSWER
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