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verb (used with object), de·filed, de·fil·ing.
  1. to make foul, dirty, or unclean; pollute; taint; debase.
  2. to violate the chastity of.
  3. to make impure for ceremonial use; desecrate.
  4. to sully, as a person's reputation.
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Origin of defile1

1275–1325; Middle English defilen, defelen, alteration of defoilen (by association with filen to file3) < Anglo-French, Old French defouler to trample on, violate; compare Old English befȳlan to befoul
Related formsde·fil·a·ble, adjectivede·file·ment, nounde·fil·er, nounde·fil·ing·ly, adverbnon·de·file·ment, noun


[dih-fahyl, dee-fahyl]
  1. any narrow passage, especially between mountains.
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verb (used without object), de·filed, de·fil·ing.
  1. to march in a line or by files.
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Origin of defile2

1675–85; < French défilé, noun use of past participle of défiler to file off; see defilade
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for defile


verb (tr)
  1. to make foul or dirty; pollute
  2. to tarnish or sully the brightness of; taint; corrupt
  3. to damage or sully (someone's good name, reputation, etc)
  4. to make unfit for ceremonial use; desecrate
  5. to violate the chastity of
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Derived Formsdefilement, noundefiler, noun

Word Origin

C14: from earlier defoilen (influenced by filen to file ³), from Old French defouler to trample underfoot, abuse, from de- + fouler to tread upon; see full ²


  1. a narrow pass or gorge, esp one between two mountains
  2. a single file of soldiers, etc
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  1. mainly military to march or cause to march in single file
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Word Origin

C17: from French défilé, from défiler to file off, from filer to march in a column, from Old French: to spin, from fil thread, from Latin fīlum
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

Word Origin and History for defile


c.1400, "to desecrate, profane;" mid-15c., "to make foul or dirty," alteration of earlier defoulen, from Old French defouler "trample down, violate," also "ill-treat, dishonor," from de- "down" (see de-) + foler "to tread," from Latin fullo "person who cleans and thickens cloth by stamping on it" (see foil (v.)).

The alteration (or re-formation) in English is from influence of Middle English filen (v.) "to render foul; make unclean or impure," literal and figurative, from Old English fylen (trans.), related to Old English fulian (intrans.) "to become foul, rot," from the source of foul (adj.). Cf. befoul, which also had a parallel form befilen. Related: Defiled; defiling.

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"narrow passage," 1640s, especially in a military sense, "a narrow passage down which troops can march only in single file," from French défilé, noun use of past participle of défiler "march by files" (17c.), from de- "off" (see de-) + file "row," from Latin filum "thread" (see file (v.)). The verb in this sense is 1705, from French défiler.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper