[loo-suh n]
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verb (used with object)
  1. to unfasten or undo, as a bond or fetter.
  2. to make less tight; slacken or relax: to loosen one's grasp.
  3. to make less firmly fixed in place: to loosen a tooth.
  4. to let loose or set free from bonds, restraint, or constraint.
  5. to make less close or compact in structure or arrangement.
  6. to make less dense or coherent: to loosen the soil in a garden.
  7. to relax in strictness or severity, as restraint or discipline: to loosen restrictions on trade.
  8. to relieve (the bowels) of their constipated condition.
verb (used without object)
  1. 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 formsloos·en·er, noun
Can be confusedloose loosen lose loss
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for loosen


  1. to make or become less tight, fixed, etc
  2. (often foll by up) to make or become less firm, compact, or rigid
  3. (tr) to untie
  4. (tr) to let loose; set free
  5. (often foll by up) to make or become less strict, severe, etc
  6. (tr) to rid or relieve (the bowels) of constipation
Derived Formsloosener, noun

Word Origin for loosen

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

Word Origin and History for loosen

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper