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[dee-sen-si-tahyz] /diˈsɛn sɪˌtaɪz/
verb (used with object), desensitized, desensitizing.
to lessen the sensitiveness of.
to make indifferent, unaware, or the like, in feeling.
Photography. to make less sensitive or wholly insensitive to light, as the emulsion on a film.
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.
Chemistry. to reduce the sensitivity of (an explosive) to those stimuli capable of detonating it.
Origin of desensitize
1900-05; de- + sensitize
Related forms
desensitizer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for desensitize
  • We must desensitize our kids to violence and video games are the way to do it.
  • desensitize her to the excitement the leash creates.
  • But the people never move on their own, so it's unrealistic enough that it's not likely to traumatize or desensitize anyone.
  • It's elementary psychology that ubiquitous warnings desensitize people.
  • She advises phobic flyers to desensitize themselves: arrive at the airport early to watch planes take off and land.
  • Tiny doses of allergen are then injected under the skin in a weekly series of allergy shots to desensitize the immune system.
  • To desensitize your dog, expose him to low-volume noises while giving him something pleasurable such as praise and a food treat.
British Dictionary definitions for desensitize


verb (transitive)
to render insensitive or less sensitive: the patient was desensitized to the allergen, to desensitize photographic film
(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
Derived Forms
desensitization, desensitisation, noun
desensitizer, 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
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Word Origin and History for desensitize

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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desensitize in Medicine

desensitize de·sen·si·tize (dē-sěn'sĭ-tīz')
v. de·sen·si·tized, de·sen·si·tiz·ing, de·sen·si·tiz·es

  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.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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