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1. Literally, to become looser, less tight, or less restricting. If those shoes are stiff right now, just give them time—they'll loosen up.
2. To make something looser, less tight, or less restricting. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "loosen" and "up." Thanks, that massage really loosened up my shoulders. I can't seem to loosen the knot up. Loose up your grip a little and your hand won't hurt as much.
3. To relax and act in a less serious manner. Oh, loosen up! It's a party—no one wants to talk about work stuff.
4. To cause one to relax and act in a less serious manner. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "loosen" and "up." My sister is very shy, but for whatever reason, our cousin Sarah always manages to loosen her up.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
loosen someone or something up
to make someone's muscles and joints move more freely by exercising them. The exercise loosened me up quite nicely. It loosened up my legs. I have to do some exercises to loosen myself up.
loosen someone up
Fig. to make someone or a group more relaxed and friendly. I loosened up the audience with a joke. Loosen yourself up. Relax and try to enjoy people.
to become loose or relaxed. Loosen up. Relax. We tried to get Mary to loosen up, but she did not respond.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To cause someone or something to become more loose or relaxed: After the big meal, I loosened up my belt. The trainer loosened me up with a massage before the fight.
2. To become more loose or relaxed: The knots loosened up, and the captives worked themselves free. They seemed shy at first, but by the end of the dinner, the guests had really loosened up.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.