de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) , dē- \
defied; defying

Definition of defy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to confront with assured power of resistance : disregard defy public opinion in trouble for defying a court order
2 : to resist attempts at : withstand the paintings defy classification a decision that defies all logic
3 : to challenge to do something considered impossible : dare defied us to name a better movie
4 archaic : to challenge to combat


de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) , ˈdē-ˌfī How to pronounce defy (audio) \
plural defies

Definition of defy (Entry 2 of 2)

: challenge, defiance observers took this to be a form of defy— Jack Alexander

Synonyms & Antonyms for defy

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of defy in a Sentence

Verb She defied her parents and dropped out of school. The group has continued to defy all efforts to stop them.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But Republicans, and a few Democrats, defy the public will on these matters over and over. Yvonne Abraham,, 8 June 2022 Moms do, of course, regularly defy this stereotype. Kate Cray, The Atlantic, 20 May 2022 The small towns, villages and ranching outposts in the counties hit by the fire, where Hispanics account for about 80 percent of the population, still defy easy classification. New York Times, 5 May 2022 Non-Muslim prayer is prohibited at the site, under administration by a Jordanian Islamic trust, but Jewish activists often defy the ban. Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2022 Held outside the regular schedule, usually in response to a death or other unexpected event, and plagued by low turnout, the outcomes can defy both conventional wisdom and underlying conditions. Samuel Goldman, The Week, 20 Apr. 2022 Powerful Women’s Movement, vowed to continue to protest and to use social media to urge women to defy the decree. David Zucchino,, 21 May 2022 Western military and humanitarian assistance have been crucial to Ukraine’s ability to defy an enemy whose military might, both in personnel and weaponry, dwarfs its own. Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2022 Thank you for inspiring the @tamronhallshow to defy the odds. Rebecca Norris, Good Housekeeping, 18 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The elms of Castine defy capture by an amateur like me. Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson, Washington Post, 10 Mar. 2022 This feels like a real American family story with characters who have rough edges and defy stereotypes. San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Feb. 2022 In fact, given Black and Latino students’ persistent low achievement in math — and the techniques used in districts that have higher success rates — aspects of the change defy logic. oregonlive, 4 Feb. 2022 Fortunately, some qualities of the Gravity 9 defy experience and form. Adam Chase, Outside Online, 3 Mar. 2020 To produce acts that defy expectations, performances must consistently push the boundaries of imagination. Karl Moore, Forbes, 20 Jan. 2022 The potential deals would boost the economy and defy predictions that remote work will kill offices. Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Nov. 2021 What’s happening right now, as recalcitrant witnesses like Steve Bannon defy subpoenas in a collective effort among Trump allies to sandbag the commission, should be instructive for the Biden administration. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 19 Oct. 2021 Eureka is one to break molds and defy expectations. Joey Nolfi,, 31 Aug. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of defy


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1580, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defy


Middle English defien "to renounce, disavow, scorn, challenge to fight," borrowed from Anglo-French defier, desfier, from de-, des- de- + fier "to pledge, trust in, rely on," going back to Vulgar Latin *fīdāre, re-formation of Latin fīdere "to trust (in), have confidence (in)" — more at faith entry 1

Note: The sense history was perhaps "to break faith with" > "to scorn" > "to challenge to a fight," though the latter meaning appears to be the earliest in Old French.


in part borrowed from Middle French deffy, noun derivative of defier "to challenge, defy entry 1," in part derivative of defy entry 1

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

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Last Updated

15 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for defy


de·​fy | \ di-ˈfī How to pronounce defy (audio) \
defied; defying

Kids Definition of defy

1 : to refuse boldly to obey or yield to The protesters defied orders to leave.
2 : to challenge to do something thought to be impossible : dare I defy you to explain the trick.
3 : to resist attempts at : withstand The scene defies description.

More from Merriam-Webster on defy

Nglish: Translation of defy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defy for Arabic Speakers


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