Though I know it's uncommon usage (and intentionally so). Is the follow sentence legitimate?

She safes the dangerous area so it cannot be stumbled upon.

Obviously, modern usage would be "she makes safe", but some research on my part shows that "safes" is an acceptable "third-person singular simple present" form of safe.

Am I correct?

  • 7
    I'm guessing you'll spend more time explaining that you didn't mean "saves" than you gain by replacing "makes safe"
    – user888379
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:11
  • 16
    You could use 'safeguards' or 'secures' if you just want one word.
    – S Conroy
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:16
  • 9
    Wouldn't "secures" do much the same job?
    – WS2
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:56
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    Why bother with archaisms in industrial contexts? Also, you do not mean stumbled upon, which means to come upon by chance. You mean: so no one falls over junk (objects) on the floor.
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2019 at 22:56
  • 8
    As a native speaker of English I had never heard "safe" used as a verb until reading this Q&A. That's how rare this usage is, and that's what makes this an interesting question. However, based on sas08's answer, I don't think you can "safe" an area, unless that area is one big weapon. ;-)
    – Mentalist
    Aug 7, 2019 at 6:46

3 Answers 3


Pretty sure we only use safe as a verb when discussing ordinance or firearms. There might be other domains (operations security maybe?) but by the verb safe we definitely mean operating a safety mechanism designed to keep the weapon from being firing/detonating.

The military definition is provided at The Free Dictionary, with citation to the US DOD (PDF).

As applied to weapons and ammunition, the changing from a state of readiness for initiation to a safe condition. Also called de-arming.

  • @user067531 you may note both examples you found are gun related. As are all the ones I can find on google. Hard too prove it hasn't been used outside those domains... but all I get for "safing" is articles on nukes and aircraft cannons. For instance: books.google.com/…
    – sas08
    Aug 6, 2019 at 21:22
  • 5
    That wouldn’t make it a common usage, but a jargon one.
    – user 66974
    Aug 6, 2019 at 21:25
  • 1
    @user067531 I'm not sure what you mean by jargon. Why would jargon oppose the sense of common?
    – sas08
    Aug 6, 2019 at 22:35
  • The other answer shows use with rockets, but perhaps the overlap between military and space organizations resulted in adopting their language.
    – Barmar
    Aug 7, 2019 at 17:15
  • 1
    The common theme to these examples would seem to be that, for any sort of device that is inherently hazardous in its normal operation, and for which there is some standard procedure for putting it into a non-hazardous state, this usage of "safe" is a technical term referring to that procedure. This is how I've always understood it -- even in ordinary usage, it has a connotation of not just making something "safe" in effect, but doing so by following an officially correct procedure.
    – dgould
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:55

Safe as a verb is quite uncommon, Wiktionary is one of the very few sources to show a few usage examples:

(transitive) To make something safe.

  • 2007, Rocky Raab, Mike Five Eight: Air War Over Cambodia: Air War Over Cambodia “It just trails behind the pylon until I land, then Cramer removes it when he safes the rocket pods. No evidence of anything when I taxi back inside the compound.”

  • 2012, Erik Seedhouse, Interplanetary Outpost One of the most important events after touchdown will be to safe the Dauntless, which will include purging the engines and shutting down the landing systems […]

  • 1
    Not common, but it does get used: John always safes his gun before putting it away. Leslie is far less careful. "Let me just safe my gun" said John. Guns usually come with safety locks, so the usage is quite specific. Aug 6, 2019 at 20:16
  • 23
    It's not uncommon, it's just common only in a technical domain that requires the operation of mechanical safeties.
    – sas08
    Aug 6, 2019 at 20:54
  • 3
    It is very uncommon and here can clearly be seen to be weapon-related or space-vehicule related.
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2019 at 22:57
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    The OED attests this usage with citations from 1602 up through 2009. It belongs to their frequency band 3, which comprises 20% of the non-obsolete terms in the dictionary, and whose "Verbs tend to be either colloquial or technical, e.g. emote, mosey, josh, recapitalize."
    – tchrist
    Aug 6, 2019 at 23:07
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    @Cascabel I did not vote for closure. I am merely saying that in the civilian world it is not common. That is a fact. But tell me, would you say it for the context provided by the OP? Some find of factory floor? I doubt it...
    – Lambie
    Aug 6, 2019 at 23:34

safeguard (MWD)

Definition of safeguard (Entry 2 of 2) transitive verb

1 : to provide a safeguard for

2 : to make safe : PROTECT

secure (MWD)

Definition of secure (Entry 2 of 2) transitive verb

1a : to relieve from exposure to danger : act to make safe against adverse contingencies secure a supply line from enemy raids

  • 1
    The adjective "safe" can be used as an antonym for either "vulnerable" or "dangerous". The verbs you suggest are only applicable to the first meaning, but the OP's post suggests the second.
    – supercat
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:27
  • You make a good point, I might have copied the wrong part of the definition. Regardless, I think either option works with the sample sentence.
    – 0xFEE1DEAD
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:49

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