What verb would mean "to lose calibration" through some (edited to clarify initial intent) intentional action? This would imply an object that previously was calibrated but intentionally changed to a state of uncalibration, e.g., if you deformed the spring in a scale such that it would no longer measure accurately.

"Decalibrate" seems the logical choice but it doesn't appear in Webster's.

Another example: "Don't use a torque wrench to break loose rusty bolts. You might [decalibrate] it."

  • 1
    You could use recalibrate, as in: "this has to be recalibrated". But I'm sure if you use 'decalibrate' that people won't fail to understand your intention.
    – user180089
    Jun 10, 2016 at 16:50
  • Instruments lose accuracy or become inaccurate for a number of reasons. They then need calibration. Jun 10, 2016 at 16:57
  • "Go wonky" is what I would generally say.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 10, 2016 at 17:02
  • Or "go out of calibration" or "out of spec" in the case of a scale "out of balance".
    – MetaEd
    Jun 10, 2016 at 17:03
  • A musical instrument goes out of tune.
    – user662852
    Jun 10, 2016 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


Dictionaries do not list all those words with prefixes/suffixes unless they have some popularity.
The de- prefix means 1. the opposite of 2. removing something — OLD.


(intransitive verb, of a measuring instrument) To lose calibration and therefore not be accurate.
"Aneroid and electronic instruments, decalibrate easily and frequently and require routine accuracy checks."

(transitive verb) To perform some action to remove the calibration of an instrument.
"it is important to not go over the pipetteman volume limit because that will decalibrate the machine."

Some Google Books examples can be found for its usage.

  • 1
    I think this is correct. Just because a word doesn't appear in some particular dictionary, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it. Dictionaries are the the source of words; they merely record the words that people use, and sometimes they are slow to pick up particular words.
    – dangph
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:53
  • the only problem with that viewpoint is that using unpopular words, even though they may be technically more correct, runs the risk of the recipient not understanding what you're saying. So it may be wiser to use more popular words in a different manner.
    – user180089
    Jun 12, 2016 at 15:10

If I were referring to a measuring instrument, I would say it has "lost calibration" or that the "calibration has drifted".

I can't think of a single verb. You could use "miscalibrated", but that might imply the calibration had never been correct.

  • 1
    Drift is definitely the best term for a "normal loss of calibration over time"
    – Hellion
    Jun 10, 2016 at 17:50
  • Creep also has limited use when the rate of drift is somewhat predictable. This could be due to chemical breakdown or mechanical fatigue. Please note, however, that both drift and creep imply the repeatability is acceptable, only the accuracy has changed. Hence you can correct for drift. The difficulty with finding verbs is that calibration is a state. It either is in cal, or not in cal. The state change is assumed to occur instantaneously. Hence all you can really say is that the result is it went out of cal.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 10, 2016 at 19:09
  • I guess I'm looking for the opposite of "normal loss" - I was looking for a word that would signal an intentional action by a person... maybe detune even though that has more of a musical instrument connotation?
    – Dan A.
    Jun 10, 2016 at 20:13

Try vitiate.


Spoil or impair the quality or efficiency of


make something less effective or faulty

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