I'm trying to describe a situation in which a person prepares for an event, then realises the event won't happen, and so they undo their preparations, returning to a state of unpreparedness.

Whenever I search for the opposite of "prepare", I get words that describe a failure to prepare in the first place, or at best words that describe what happens to the preparations, not words that describe what happens to the person.

Is there a word that captures what happens to the person as they return to a state of unpreparedness?

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

closed as off-topic by tchrist Sep 8 at 17:32

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  • 2
    "let down their guard" might work, but that's not actively undoing the preparations. – idspispopd Aug 15 at 11:26
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    "Resting on your laurels" might be appropriate. – Luck Aug 15 at 17:23
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    Brexit? (Sorry.) – Owen Blacker Aug 16 at 10:25
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    @OwenBlacker I've upvoted a bunch of your other contributions. – Simon Aug 16 at 12:36
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    What about unprepare? Is it a "real" word? I don't know. Who cares? – Daniel Aug 16 at 14:52

There is the phrase "stand down" about which Lexico says

stand down

2 Relax or cause to relax after a state of readiness.

If something doesn't happen soon, I reckon they'll stand us down.

An ambulance crew was dispatched immediately, however they were stood down shortly after.

They have got to accept that the war is over and stand down their army once and for all.

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    Those particular examples are all transitive (cause to relax) but it's worth emphasizing that it can also be intransitive (relax) as in "If the treaty is signed, then our armed forces will stand down," since that seems closer to what OP is asking. – jez Aug 15 at 20:12
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    Please see our Help Center. This post provides little value to the site because there’s no original content here, no reason given in your own words as to why you think this is the answer. ELU is not a link-farm for thesaurus copy-pasta text. We expect expert answers, not just copies of others’ words whether attributed or not. You still have to write your own answer in your own words. – tchrist Sep 8 at 17:31

I'm trying to describe a situation in which a person prepares for an event, then realises the event won't happen, and so they undo their preparations, returning to a state of unpreparedness.

You're literally just describing


...to loosen...
...to diminish the... tension of...
...to make less tense...
...to cease or lessen one's efforts...
...to allow... to slacken or diminish...
...to slacken or become less severe with regard to something...

As far as actively going about undoing one's preparations, it would depend on the situation: striking camp; unloading, dropping, reholstering guns; replacing food; turning off the car, &c. For people like the military and police with prearranged readiness levels, they just talk about the levels themselves: returning to [former level] or ending, recalling, ceasing, &c. [emergency level].


This seems like a pretty exact fit, though I'm not sure how frequently it is used:


: to cause to be unprepared : make unfit or unready

Source: Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unprepare


To "go soft" or "grow soft":

9a : lacking robust strength, stamina, or endurance especially because of living in ease or luxury
// grown soft and indolent

15 : not protected against enemy attack
a soft aboveground launching site
soft targets

Source: Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/soft

(9a) is usually used derisively when the state of preparedness should have been preserved.


There were several answers way, way off-base. Disengage was not bad but does not carry the same implications. Pigeonhole, defer, put off, undo also work. Undo everything is two words. Undo would do. (grin)

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