Definition of defy in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Openly resist or refuse to obey.

    ‘a woman who defies convention’
    • ‘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 didn't defy authority, but refused to back down.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But the establishment refuses to defy its campaign donors in the pharmaceutical industry.’
    • ‘Sometimes she openly defied them, knowing she would make things worse.’
    • ‘He is said to have openly defied warnings about his anti-social behaviour.’
    • ‘She had openly defied the Government by refusing to sell her much needed medicine to the sick.’
    • ‘What if mayors around the nation just openly defied the law?’
    • ‘Unless and until we make such a decision the law should be enforced against those individuals who openly defy it whether here or abroad.’
    • ‘He knew the rules, and he knew he was skirting them by openly defying a federal court order.’
    • ‘In a general way, the one who openly defies you, who refuses to cooperate with you is an open enemy.’
    • ‘Pursuing a strategy of ‘massive resistance,’ many Southern officials openly defied the decision.’
    • ‘If the bishop is the final word on governance in his diocese, then he can openly defy the Pope in matters of governance.’
    • ‘Where is the point in talking to the government when the exhibitors are openly defying the moratorium.’
    • ‘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.’
    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
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    1. 1.1 (of a thing) make (an action or quality) almost impossible.
      ‘his actions defy belief’
      • ‘retreat weekend Occasionally one comes across an extraordinary place, which defies adequate description.’
      • ‘That's why scientists were shocked to spot an insect with wings that seem to defy the forces of nature.’
      • ‘The predaceous diving beetle seems to defy the rules of nature.’
      • ‘For the past five years he has been defying nature and logic and seemingly getting better and better.’
      • ‘They give awards to sites that mostly, by their very nature, defy categorisation.’
      • ‘It is in the nature of disaster to defy representation.’
      • ‘Even now, he is resisting labels, defying categorization.’
      • ‘The emerging malpractices and general chicanery of these cash-driven outfits defy belief.’
      • ‘He's so funny, and so purely charismatic here as to defy adequate description.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 original worked so much better exactly because he was an inexplicable force of nature that defied any easy categorization.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This enables one to control various energies and seemingly defy the laws of nature.’
      • ‘Despite these troubling warnings, we were determined to defy nature.’
      • ‘The small blue containers seemed to glow, defying 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.’
      • ‘I also couldn't help noticing a few butterflies that, defying all laws of nature, were living in my stomach.’
      • ‘It was right and moral for the strongest race to survive; to have pity for the weak was to defy nature's laws.’
      • ‘The effect has been to institutionalize a process that, by its very nature, seems to defy institutionalization.’
      • ‘They defy the laws of nature and have no respect for the lives that are destroyed by them.’
      • ‘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.’
      elude, escape, defeat
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    2. 1.2with object and infinitive Appear to be challenging (someone) to do or prove something.
      ‘he glowered at her, defying her to mock him’
      • ‘But I defy anyone not to find the ‘rodeo on ice’ amusing.’
      • ‘There may be exceptions, but I defy anyone to prove me wrong on this point.’
      • ‘Every now and again a record comes along that defies you to ignore it, and here's one of them.’
      • ‘His eyebrows were raised, mouth puckered, his eyes sly, defying me to ask more questions.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Matt has recently purchased some new hardware, and there are days when I would defy you to find anything smarter or more amusing anywhere.’
      • ‘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 can imagine someone just having a ceremony on one of the beaches and defying anyone to stop us.’
      • ‘I defy anyone to show me a story saying he had a great victory in the State.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I defy anyone to find the actual hokey-pokey in that sequence.’
      • ‘I defy you to wear one for a day and not get stopped, so beware!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But I defy you to watch the film and not turn away, or at least feel genuine revulsion, at several points.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They swarm on to the roads, heedless of the rush-hour traffic, defying drivers to confront their rebellion against road safety.’
      • ‘The spirit of the law is undoubtedly being breached by this - I defy anyone to make a profit from an opera house.’
      challenge, dare
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    3. 1.3archaic Challenge to combat.
      ‘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’.