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[loo-suh n] /ˈlu sən/
verb (used with object)
to unfasten or undo, as a bond or fetter.
to make less tight; slacken or relax:
to loosen one's grasp.
to make less firmly fixed in place:
to loosen a tooth.
to let loose or set free from bonds, restraint, or constraint.
to make less close or compact in structure or arrangement.
to make less dense or coherent:
to loosen the soil in a garden.
to relax in strictness or severity, as restraint or discipline:
to loosen restrictions on trade.
to relieve (the bowels) of their constipated condition.
verb (used without object)
to become loose or looser (sometimes followed by up):
His hold loosened. Your shoes will loosen up with wear.
Origin of loosen
First recorded in 1350-1400, loosen is from the Middle English word loosnen. See loose, -en1
Related forms
loosener, noun
Can be confused
loose, loosen, lose, loss. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for loosen up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I had seen the multitudes "loosen up," I had felt myself melt into the crowd.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • It does one good to let down the bars and loosen up the reins occasionally.

    Blue Bonnet in Boston Caroline E. Jacobs
  • If you do, stop and loosen up a very little and start again.

    Farm Engines and How to Run Them James H. Stephenson
  • It was your cooking, sure, that made him loosen up that way.

    Our Next-Door Neighbors Belle Kanaris Maniates
  • When it came his time to loosen up he never referred the waiter to an actuary.

    The Trimmed Lamp

    O. Henry
British Dictionary definitions for loosen up


to make or become less tight, fixed, etc
(often foll by up) to make or become less firm, compact, or rigid
(transitive) to untie
(transitive) to let loose; set free
(often foll by up) to make or become less strict, severe, etc
(transitive) to rid or relieve (the bowels) of constipation
Derived Forms
loosener, noun
Word Origin
C14: from loose
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for loosen up



late 14c., losnen, later lousen (early 15c.), from loose (v.) + -en (1). Related: Loosened; loosening.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for loosen up

loosen up

verb phrase

To speak more freely; become loquacious; loosen one's tongue: Fatigue and a drink or two loosened him up and he told us the whole story/ Debating Perot is a mistake. They will loose him up (1911+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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