• (British) IPA: /ˈluːsn̩/

loosen (loosens, present participle loosening; 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,
      […] after a yeares Rooting, then Shaking doth the Tree good, by Loosening of the Earth […]
    • 1992, Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, London: Picador, 1993, Chapter 10, p. 265,
      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,
      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,
      The sea scurvy is attended with an universal putrefaction, the teeth loosen, old wounds that had been healed again open […]
    • 1940, Richard Wright (author), Native Son, London: Jonathan Cape, 1970, Book 3, p. 387,
      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,
      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,
      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,
      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.
    • 1770, Henry Brooke (writer), The Fool of Quality, Dublin: for the author, Volume 5, p. 52,
      Immediately my Shackles loosened and fell away of themselves […]
  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,
      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,
      […] 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,
      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,
      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,
      […] 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,
      […] 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,
      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,
      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).
    • circa 1605 William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act V, Scene 1,
      I had rather lose the battle than that sister
      Should loosen him and me.
  8. (intransitive, obsolete) To sail away (from the shore).
    Synonyms: put out
    • 1565, Arthur Golding (translator), The Gallic Wars, London: William Seres, Book 4,
      […] after the .iiii. day of oure arryuall in Britayne, the eightene shyps that we spake of before, which hadde the horsemen to conuey ouer, loosened from the further hauen with a soft wynd.
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