The Meaning of Defy: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of defy? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word defy, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word defy mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word defy is a transitive verb which means to go against or stand firm in a particular way, usually against a hostile force with courage. The military soldiers might defy a blockade or fort, a child can defy parental authority in a baffling way, protesters might defy a dreadful situation, behavior could defy a court order, a powerful person could defy effective resistance, explorers could defy the dangers of a storm, a politician could defy accusers, someone could defy the wrath of the authorities, the latest fashions with the greatest wear of new material, the wrath of authorities, and more. The word defy implies strife, assurance, boldness, and a contempt for a set of rules, conventional approach, or authoritarian state. The suffixes ing, ble, and more can be added to the word . Defy is two syllables – de-fy, and the pronunciation of defy is de-fi.

Many different languages also contain words that mean defy. You may notice that many of these words look similar to the English translation of the English word meaning defy. These are called cognates, which are words that look, sound, and mean similar things across different languages. These are often formed when two words or languages share a common origin or ancestral language, such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations of defy is provided by Word Sense, and you could find translations in a French electronic resource unabridged 7th edition, Spanish Dictionary unabridged 8th edition, Italian dictionary 1st edition or German Dictionary fifth edition.

  •  Russian: пренебрега́ть‎, попира́ть‎
  •  Spanish: renunciar‎, desafiar‎
  •  Dutch: afzweren‎
  •  Italian: abiurare‎
  •  Bulgarian: игнорирам‎, пренебрегвам‎
  •  Persian: سرپیچی‎, نافرمانی‎, سر باز زدن‎
  •  Portuguese: renunciar‎
  •  Thai: ต่อต้าน‎
  •  Czech: vzdát se‎ (pf), zřeknout se‎ (pf)
  •  Mandarin: 抗拒‎ (kàngjù)
  •  Sorani: عاسی بوون‎, له‌ قسه‌ده‌رچوون‎
  •  German: trotzden‎

Can you figure out what languages the below words are in? 

Desobedecer sich widersetzen подчинявам desafiar vzpírat se neueste mode nicht definiert des­fide das ist ja unglaublich sfida открыто не повиноваться vzdorovať upirati se prkositi trotsa te desafío machen sie es doch jeder beschreibung spotten fare qc 激起 suprotstaviti vzdorovat trotzen trodse αψηφώ desafiar vastu hakkama ögra sfidare 挑戦する 무시하다 skatinti izaicināt cabar uitdagen trasse dat sie trägt ihrem alter zum trotz die hacerlo kutsuma sfidare qn utfordre diˈfai den gesetzen der schwerkraft contravenir register können provoca бросать вызов vyzvať izzivati izazivati utmana ท้า meydan okuma uitdaag يَتَحَدّى предизвиквам desafiar vyzvat herausfordern udfordre προκαλώ desafiar välja défier qn de faire qch ignorēt bantah trotseren trosse ignoruoti nepakļauties etw entgegen allen erwartungen tun kaufen sie doch einen billigeren bheidh opirati se kihív menantang skora bjóða byrginn sfidare 無視する 공공연히 대항하다 stoti prieš dépasser l widerstehen ellenszegül menentang storka spassky désobéir se escapa logik

What is the word origin of defy?

According to Etymonline, the word defy has been used since the Middle English defien in c14. This comes from the 14c Old French desfier, as well as the Vulgar Latin fīdāre, a variant of Latin fīdere and disfidare/disfīdāre formed with the Latin dis prefix and Latin fidus/Latin fīdus. This word is of Indo-European roots.

What are synonyms and antonyms of defy?

There are a vast collection of words that can be used in place of the word defy. These are known as synonyms in natural sounding English. Synonyms are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to grow your vocabulary as well as if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word defy is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  mock
  •  transgress
  •  break
  •  fly in the face of
  •  dispute
  •  dared
  •  fail to observe
  •  rebels
  •  elude
  •  resist
  •  disobeying
  •  endure
  •  contradict
  •  trample on
  •  braving
  •  infringe
  •  face up
  •  object to
  •  overlook
  •  throw down the gauntlet
  •  ignore
  •  outdare
  •  outface
  •  escape
  •  omit
  •  bypass
  •  challenging
  •  shun
  •  face down
  •  fail to comply with
  •  face
  •  dare
  •  thwart
  •  repel
  •  rebel
  •  misbehave
  •  defying
  •  call out
  •  flouted
  •  rebel against
  •  defies
  •  refuse to obey
  •  reject
  •  neglect
  •  dissent
  •  set aside
  •  counter
  •  confront
  •  fight
  •  oppose
  •  defeat
  •  baffle
  •  daring
  •  contravene
  •  breach
  •  spurn
  •  go counter to
  •  stand
  •  disobeyed
  •  combat
  •  go against
  •  stand up to
  •  refuse
  •  obstruct
  •  challenge
  •  frustrate
  •  hold
  •  counteract
  •  beard
  •  defiance
  •  disregard
  •  deride
  •  exclude
  •  challenged
  •  face off
  •  hinder
  •  withstand
  •  scorn
  •  affront
  •  brave
  •  pay no attention to
  •  disdain
  •  be insubordinate
  •  do wrong
  •  buck
  •  kick against
  •  provoke
  •  impede
  •  flout
  •  revolt
  •  cross
  •  violate
  •  gainsay
  •  hold up
  •  contest
  •  slight
  •  infract
  •  disobey
  •  overstep
  •  face with
  •  invite competition

How can the word defy be used in a sentence?

Using a word in a sentence is a great way to learn its definition. You could also try making flashcards or a quiz to test your knowledge of new lingo and new words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of different examples of using the word defy in a sentence to help get you started.

The sailors defied the dangers of the storm. Fischer would strap down their equipment and young Cargill and Uncle David would man the wheel. These stirring scenes were legend described in the 14th century book.

It was worth while to go see young and old defy riot police in the protests at Princeton University. The young children learned about the power of protest and how even one small voice can make a difference. They all made signs and participated.

Overall, the word defy means to go against. This word is a verb.


  1. Defy synonyms – 1 892 Words and Phrases for Defy | Power Thesaurus 
  2. defy: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  3. Defy definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  4. defy | Origin and meaning of defy | Online Etymology Dictionary