political term is 1908 borrowing of Fr. détente "loosening, slackening," used in O.Fr. for the catch of a crossbow, from V.L. detendita, fem. pp. of detendere "loosen, release," from de- "from, away" + tendere "stretch" (see tenet).
A period of lessening tension between two major national powers, or a policy designed to lessen that tension. Détente presupposes that the two powers will continue to disagree but seeks to reduce the occasions of conflict.