Stand up when the powers that be order you to sit down, and you've given a fine example of defiance. It happens when someone or a group of someones openly flouts or challenges authority.

We owe this lovely descriptive term to the French — specifically to the Old French word defier, which means to defy. (Don't mix it up with deify; that means to make someone or something into a god.) If you've ever studied Latin, you'll spot the fi from fidare "to trust" that inspired the Marines' "semper fi" motto and the popular moniker for pooches––"Fido." Combining fi with de- negates it. So an act of defiance is essentially an act of not trusting.

Definitions of defiance

n a hostile challenge

Type of:
a call to engage in a contest or fight

n a defiant act

Type of:
group action in opposition to those in power

n intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude

defiance of authority
noisy defiance
Type of:
intractability, intractableness
the trait of being hard to influence or control

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.