From loose +‎ -en.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈluːsn̩/
  • (file)


loosen (third-person singular simple present loosens, present participle loosening, simple past and past participle loosened)

  1. (transitive) To make loose.
    Synonyms: ease, relax, untighten
    to loosen a knot; to loosen one's grip / hold on something
    After the Thanksgiving meal, Bill loosened his belt.
    • 1626, Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum: or A Naturall Historie, London: William Lee, Century 5, p. 111,[1]
      [] after a yeares Rooting, then Shaking doth the Tree good, by Loosening of the Earth []
    • 1960 December, “Talking of Trains: The railways and the Devon floods”, in Trains Illustrated, page 709:
      [...] and on the Saturday heavy seas pounded the W.R. on its exposed coastal stretch between Dawlish and Teignmouth, loosening the ballast and forcing trains to proceed with extreme caution.
    • 1992, Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, London: Picador, 1993, Chapter 10, p. 265,[2]
      His days at the villa had loosened his body and freed his tenseness []
  2. (intransitive) To become loose.
    I noticed that my seatbelt had gradually loosened during the journey.
    • 1630, Michael Drayton, “Noahs Floud” in The Muses Elizium Lately Discouered, London: John Waterson, p. 108,[3]
      The subtile shower the earth hath softned so,
      And with the waues, the trees tost to and fro;
      That the rootes loosen, and the tops downe sway,
      So that whole Forrests quickly swimme away.
    • 1764, Oliver Goldsmith, An History of England, in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to his Son, London: J. Newbery, Volume 2, Letter 19, p. 159,[4]
      The sea scurvy is attended with an universal putrefaction, the teeth loosen, old wounds that had been healed again open []
    • 1940, Richard Wright, Native Son, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970, Book 3, p. 387,[5]
      Max caught Bigger’s shoulders in a tight grip; then his fingers loosened and he sank back to the cot []
  3. (transitive) To disengage (a device that restrains).
    Synonyms: undo, unfasten
    • 1717, Joseph Addison (translator), Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books, translated by the most eminent hands, London: Jacob Tonson, Book 3, p. 99,[6]
      At Liberty th’ unfetter’d Captive stands,
      And flings the loosen’d Shackles from his Hands.
    • 1796, Matthew Gregory Lewis, The Monk, London: J. Bell, Volume 3, Chapter 10, p. 167,[7]
      He easily comprehended, that the noise which he had heard was occasioned by his having loosened a chain which attached the image to its pedestal.
    • 1994, J. M. Coetzee, The Master of Petersburg, New York: Viking, Chapter 6, p. 55,[8]
      Her hair is drawn back under a heavy enamelled clasp. He loosens the clasp and lays it on the table.
  4. (intransitive) To become unfastened or undone.
  5. (transitive) To free from restraint; to set at liberty.
    Synonyms: liberate, release, set free
    • 1695, John Dryden (translator), De Arte Graphica by Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, London: W. Rogers, p. 185,[10]
      This is an admirable Rule; a Painter ought to have it perpetually present in his Mind and Memory. [] it loosens his hands, and assists his understanding.
    • 1794, Ann Ward Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, London: G.G. and J. Robinson, Volume 1, Chapter 5, p. 145,[11]
      [] Valancourt, willing to take a more extensive view of the enchanting country, into which they were about to descend, than he could do from a carriage, loosened his dogs, and once more bounded with them along the banks of the road.
    • 1876, George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, Book 1, Chapter 8,[12]
      I thought you had more sense than [] to suppose that because you have fallen into a very common trouble, such as most men have to go through, you are loosened from all bonds of duty []
    • 1905, Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth, Book 2, Chapter 11,[13]
      The recollection loosened a throng of benumbed sensations—longings, regrets, imaginings, the throbbing brood of the only spring her heart had ever known.
  6. (transitive) To relieve (the bowels) from constipation; to promote defecation.
    • 1626, Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum: or A Naturall Historie, London: William Lee, Century 1, p. 14,[14]
      [] Feare looseneth the Belly; because the Heat retiring inwards towards the Heart, the Gutts and other Parts are relaxed;
    • 1646, Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, London: E. Dod, Book 2, Chapter 3, p. 73,[15]
      [] omitting the vehicle of water and honey, which is of a laxative power it selfe, the powder of some Loadstones in this dose doth rather constipate and binde, then purge and loosen the belly.
    • 1697, William Dampier, A New Voyage Round the World, London: James Knapton, Volume 1, Chapter 8, p. 222,[16]
      When this Fruit [the guava] is eaten green it is binding, when ripe it is loosening.
    • 1974, Richard Adams, Shardik, London: Oneworld, 2014, Chapter 36,[17]
      Trying to control his breathing and the loosening of his bowels, he crouched still lower []
  7. (transitive, obsolete) To create a breach or rift between (two parties).
  8. (intransitive, obsolete) To sail away (from the shore).
    Synonym: put out


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See alsoEdit