[ loo-suhn ]
See synonyms for loosen on Thesaurus.com
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.

  1. to make less firmly fixed in place: to loosen a tooth.

  2. to let loose or set free from bonds, restraint, or constraint.

  3. to make less close or compact in structure or arrangement.

  4. to make less dense or coherent: to loosen the soil in a garden.

  5. to relax in strictness or severity, as restraint or discipline: to loosen restrictions on trade.

  6. 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

Other words from loosen

  • loos·en·er, noun

Words that may be confused with loosen

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use loosen in a sentence

  • See that no one throws down the gangway or loosens the ropes till the order is given.

    The Norsemen in the West | R.M. Ballantyne
  • If your axe handle is dry and the head loosens, soak it over night and the wood will swell and tighten the head.

  • Man cuts up and loosens the soil with his hoe; woman follows after, strewing the seed between the clods.

  • A fresh gust of wind loosens its hold, and it is blown in circling eddies to the earth.

  • The guillotine loosens stronger bonds, and the whisper of the spy is more efficacious than the law of divorce.

    Sir Jasper Carew | Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for loosen


/ (ˈluːsən) /

  1. to make or become less tight, fixed, etc

  2. (often foll by up) to make or become less firm, compact, or rigid

  1. (tr) to untie

  2. (tr) to let loose; set free

  3. (often foll by up) to make or become less strict, severe, etc

  4. (tr) to rid or relieve (the bowels) of constipation

Origin of loosen

C14: from loose

Derived forms of loosen

  • loosener, 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