verb (used with object), de·sen·si·tized, de·sen·si·tiz·ing.

  1. to lessen the sensitiveness of.
  2. to make indifferent, unaware, or the like, in feeling.
  3. Photography. to make less sensitive or wholly insensitive to light, as the emulsion on a film.
  4. 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.
  5. Chemistry. to reduce the sensitivity of (an explosive) to those stimuli capable of detonating it.

verb (tr)

  1. to render insensitive or less sensitivethe patient was desensitized to the allergen; to desensitize photographic film
  2. 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

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


  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.

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