Definition of defy in English:



  • 1with object Openly resist or refuse to obey.

    ‘a woman who defies convention’
    • ‘She didn't defy authority, but refused to back down.’
    • ‘The fishermen leave when threatened but are back in the same location within minutes, openly defying the police officer by blowing a conch shell as he speaks.’
    • ‘He knew the rules, and he knew he was skirting them by openly defying a federal court order.’
    • ‘What if mayors around the nation just openly defied the law?’
    • ‘If the bishop is the final word on governance in his diocese, then he can openly defy the Pope in matters of governance.’
    • ‘If things have got to the state where a kid is openly defying authority and going out causing criminal damage, it's gone beyond the point where the parent can do anything to stop it, surely?’
    • ‘Pursuing a strategy of ‘massive resistance,’ many Southern officials openly defied the decision.’
    • ‘The Union not only refused to defy the court order but has not asked other unions to ban the metal products factory or call for wider industrial action by its own members.’
    • ‘Unless and until we make such a decision the law should be enforced against those individuals who openly defy it whether here or abroad.’
    • ‘Sometimes she openly defied them, knowing she would make things worse.’
    • ‘Guide dog owners have condemned ‘ignorant’ restaurants and pubs that continue to defy the law by refusing to accept their animals.’
    • ‘As a bishop, she is pledged to uphold church law and file charges against pastors who openly defy it.’
    • ‘She had openly defied the Government by refusing to sell her much needed medicine to the sick.’
    • ‘But the establishment refuses to defy its campaign donors in the pharmaceutical industry.’
    • ‘My sister was the one who was always pushing at the boundaries, trying to find ways around the instructions given her, often openly defying her elders.’
    • ‘In a general way, the one who openly defies you, who refuses to cooperate with you is an open enemy.’
    • ‘Where is the point in talking to the government when the exhibitors are openly defying the moratorium.’
    • ‘He is said to have openly defied warnings about his anti-social behaviour.’
    • ‘I openly defied the principal and made him look a fool in front of the entire senior class and he found a way to make me pay for it.’
    • ‘Regardless of whether one thinks that should be the law or not, you cannot have a judge, whose job is to enforce the law, openly defying it.’
    go against, flout, disobey, refuse to obey, rebel against, thumb one's nose at, disregard, ignore, set one's face against, kick against
    resist, withstand, take a stand against, hold out against, stand up to, confront, face, meet head-on, take on, square up to, beard, brave, outface
    disobey, refuse to obey, go against, rebel against, flout, fly in the face of, thumb one's nose at, disregard, ignore, set one's face against, kick against
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    1. 1.1 Be of such a kind or nature that (a specified attitude or action) is almost impossible.
      ‘his actions defy belief’
      ‘the outfit defied adequate description’
      • ‘I also couldn't help noticing a few butterflies that, defying all laws of nature, were living in my stomach.’
      • ‘Putting aside for a moment that it's primarily non-verbal, so by nature it defies verbal explanation, but I'm also by no means as adept as I intend to be.’
      • ‘This enables one to control various energies and seemingly defy the laws of nature.’
      • ‘That's why scientists were shocked to spot an insect with wings that seem to defy the forces of nature.’
      • ‘Suddenly, we were told, single women everywhere could order made-to-measure designer babies and infertile couples could defy the laws of nature and have healthy children.’
      • ‘For the past five years he has been defying nature and logic and seemingly getting better and better.’
      • ‘Despite these troubling warnings, we were determined to defy nature.’
      • ‘Nature's transitions often defy our best attempts at classification, and besides, the enormous dam in front of us had changed this land inestimably.’
      • ‘The predaceous diving beetle seems to defy the rules of nature.’
      • ‘The effect has been to institutionalize a process that, by its very nature, seems to defy institutionalization.’
      • ‘It was right and moral for the strongest race to survive; to have pity for the weak was to defy nature's laws.’
      • ‘They defy the laws of nature and have no respect for the lives that are destroyed by them.’
      • ‘It is deeply disturbing that such an attitude that defies common sense should come from those that are supposed to protect society from racist behaviour.’
      • ‘The emerging malpractices and general chicanery of these cash-driven outfits defy belief.’
      • ‘Exactly how a vendor which of its own volition posts information in a public forum can then go back and claim it's proprietary defies comprehension.’
      • ‘They give awards to sites that mostly, by their very nature, defy categorisation.’
      • ‘retreat weekend Occasionally one comes across an extraordinary place, which defies adequate description.’
      • ‘The original worked so much better exactly because he was an inexplicable force of nature that defied any easy categorization.’
      • ‘It is in the nature of disaster to defy representation.’
      • ‘He's so funny, and so purely charismatic here as to defy adequate description.’
      • ‘The small blue containers seemed to glow, defying nature.’
      • ‘Even now, he is resisting labels, defying categorization.’
      elude, escape, defeat
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  • 2with object and infinitive Appear to be challenging (someone) to do or prove something.

    ‘he glowered at her, defying her to mock him’
    • ‘The spirit of the law is undoubtedly being breached by this - I defy anyone to make a profit from an opera house.’
    • ‘I defy you to wear one for a day and not get stopped, so beware!’
    • ‘But I defy you to watch the film and not turn away, or at least feel genuine revulsion, at several points.’
    • ‘Police officers detained and arrested a woman after she violated the curfew and defied the officers' warnings to leave the downtown area last Thursday.’
    • ‘I defy anyone to show me a story saying he had a great victory in the State.’
    • ‘They swarm on to the roads, heedless of the rush-hour traffic, defying drivers to confront their rebellion against road safety.’
    • ‘I adopted a zig-zag pattern, defying her to predict my passage beneath her bough, gave her a wide berth once more and avoided her attack.’
    • ‘Matt has recently purchased some new hardware, and there are days when I would defy you to find anything smarter or more amusing anywhere.’
    • ‘Acres of pristine, dirt-free limestone streets and walkways - resembling snaking silver rivers - defy you to even think of dropping a sweet or food wrapper.’
    • ‘I would defy anyone to keep coming up with something different because it's really difficult, but to do the same thing bores me and I won't lay that on the public.’
    • ‘I defy anyone to find the actual hokey-pokey in that sequence.’
    • ‘I can imagine someone just having a ceremony on one of the beaches and defying anyone to stop us.’
    • ‘There may be exceptions, but I defy anyone to prove me wrong on this point.’
    • ‘It's just so infectiously fun, and we defy anyone who hears this amazing album not to play air guitar the instant they hear these tracks.’
    • ‘His eyebrows were raised, mouth puckered, his eyes sly, defying me to ask more questions.’
    • ‘But I defy anyone not to find the ‘rodeo on ice’ amusing.’
    • ‘Every now and again a record comes along that defies you to ignore it, and here's one of them.’
    • ‘Not afraid to show their femininity but defying you to try and perceive it as weakness, we can think of no better role model for young girls (and boys, come to think of it).’
    • ‘There are innumerable bends that I defy anyone who has any passion whatsoever for motorcycling to be able to ride without making contact between knee slider and tarmac!’
    • ‘I defy anyone who calls themselves human not to go weak at the knees when they hear this guy sing - a voice so clear and perfect that it could probably craft the edges on diamonds.’
    challenge, dare
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    1. 2.1archaic Challenge (someone) to fight.
      ‘go now, defy him to the combat’
      • ‘So the superhero who fights monsters also defies his guardian and falls in love.’
      • ‘On his way to Rome he slays the giant of St Michael's Mount; his ambassador Walwain defies the emperor and fights him bravely.’


Middle English (in the senses ‘renounce an allegiance’ and ‘challenge to combat’): from Old French desfier, based on Latin dis- (expressing reversal) + fidus ‘faithful’.