detente


< /deɪˈtɑnts; French deɪˈtɑ̃t/.

  1. a relaxing of tension, especially between nations, as by negotiations or agreements.

noun

  1. the relaxing or easing of tension, esp between nations
n.

1908 as a political term, a borrowing of French détente “loosening, slackening” (used in the Middle Ages for the catch of a crossbow), from Vulgar Latin detendita, fem. past participle of Latin detendere “loosen, release,” from de- “from, away” (see de-) + tendere “stretch” (see tenet). The reference is to a “relaxing” in a political situation. The French word was earlier borrowed as detent (1680s) “catch which regulates the strike in a clock.”

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.

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