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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.
Also, especially British, desensitise.
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 desensitized
  • The receptors to which nicotine binds in the brain quickly become desensitized, rendering smoking ultimately ineffective.
  • Perhaps the neurons become desensitized and need more and more to produce the high-to put out pixie dust, metaphorically speaking.
  • People will simply become further desensitized and smoking rates will drop modestly if at all.
  • Since then a good many of us have become desensitized to the use of torture.
  • Their experiences, which expose desensitized nerves, are painfully cathartic.
  • Over the course of a day, however, the nerve cells become desensitized to nicotine.
  • Penicillin-allergic individuals should be desensitized and then treated with penicillin.
  • People allergic to penicillin should be desensitized to it before treatment.
  • Some patients with penicillin allergies may have to be desensitized to penicillin so that they can be safely treated with it.
  • People who are allergic to penicillin should ideally be desensitized to it, and then treated with penicillin.
British Dictionary definitions for desensitized


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 desensitized



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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desensitized 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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