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See more synonyms for desensitize on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), de·sen·si·tized, de·sen·si·tiz·ing.
  1. to lessen the sensitiveness of.
  2. to make indifferent, unaware, or the like, in feeling.
  3. Photography. to make less sensitive or wholly insensitive to light, as the emulsion on a film.
  4. Printing. to treat (the design on a lithographic plate) with an etch in order to increase the capacity to retain moisture, and to remove traces of grease.
  5. Chemistry. to reduce the sensitivity of (an explosive) to those stimuli capable of detonating it.
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Also especially British, de·sen·si·tise.

Origin of desensitize

First recorded in 1900–05; de- + sensitize
Related formsde·sen·si·tiz·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for desensitized

deaden, benumb, numb, anesthetize

Examples from the Web for desensitized

Contemporary Examples of desensitized

Historical Examples of desensitized

  • His impressions are transferred to the desensitized plate of Mr. Hennessy's mind, where they can do no harm.

  • Her desensitized and asphalt palate thrills and throbs beneath the tricklings of Cordon Rouge.

    Europe After 8:15

    H. L. Mencken, George Jean Nathan and Willard Huntington Wright

British Dictionary definitions for desensitized



verb (tr)
  1. to render insensitive or less sensitivethe patient was desensitized to the allergen; to desensitize photographic film
  2. psychol to decrease the abnormal fear in (a person) of a situation or object, by exposing him to it either in reality or in his imagination
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Derived Formsdesensitization or desensitisation, noundesensitizer or desensitiser, noun
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 desensitized



1904; see de- "do the opposite of" + sensitize. Originally of photography development; psychological sense is first recorded 1935. Related: Desensitized; desensitizing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

desensitized in Medicine


  1. To render insensitive or less sensitive, as a nerve or tooth.
  2. To make an individual nonreactive or insensitive to an antigen.
  3. To make a person emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure or repeated shocks.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.