be·​muse | \ bi-ˈmyüz How to pronounce bemuse (audio) , bē-\
bemused; bemusing; bemuses

Definition of bemuse

transitive verb

1 : to make confused : puzzle, bewilder
2 : to occupy the attention of : distract, absorb has bemused audiences around the world
3 : to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement seems truly bemused that people beyond his circle in Seattle would be interested in his ruminations— Ruth B. Smith

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Other Words from bemuse

bemusement \ -​ˈmyüz-​mənt How to pronounce bemusement (audio) \ noun

Are amused and bemused synonyms?

Many people link bemused with amused, believing that the former word carries the meaning “amused, with a touch of something else.” While this was not its original sense, bemused has been used in such a fashion for long enough, and by enough people, that the meaning “having feelings of wry amusement especially from something that is surprising or perplexing" has become established. You may use bemuse in this fashion if you wish, but bear in mind that some people find it objectionable, insisting that bemused and amused are entirely distinct and that bemused properly means “marked by confusion or bewilderment.” It is worth noting that before bemused indicated confusion it had the meaning (especially among poets) “devoted to the Muses.”

Did You Know?

In 1735, British poet Alexander Pope lamented, in rhyme, being besieged by "a parson much bemus'd in beer." The cleric in question was apparently one of a horde of would-be poets who plagued Pope with requests that he read their verses. Pope meant that the parson had found his muse - his inspiration - in beer. That use of bemus'd harks back to a 1705 letter in which Pope wrote of "Poets … irrecoverably Be-mus'd." In both letter and poem, Pope used bemused to allude to being inspired by or devoted to one of the Muses, the Greek sister goddesses of art, music, and literature. The lexicographers who followed him, however, interpreted "bemus'd in beer" as meaning "left confused by beer," and their confusion gave rise to the first modern sense of bemused above.

Examples of bemuse in a Sentence

a public that seemed more bemused by the shenanigans of celebrities than by a war being waged half a world away the stage mishap momentarily bemused the actress

Recent Examples on the Web

His expression during the video is bemused, carefree, unbothered, and entirely mischievous — providing a perfect reaction meme for anyone looking to lighten the mood or give a humorous hot take as is par for the course on social media. Cady Lang, Time, "Priceless Giggling Reaction Gave Us a Very Mischievous Meme," 11 July 2019 Bystanders — some most likely bemused — are sprayed with water. Washington Post, "Unrepentant ‘sinners’ romp in Spanish town at Corpus Christi," 23 June 2019 Canha was bemused about Sampson’s reaction to his homer. Susan Slusser,, "A’s Mark Canha, Rangers’ Adrian Sampson rev up division rivalry," 9 June 2019 Scholze was bemused by the long theorems with their short proofs, which struck him as valid but insubstantial. Quanta Magazine, "Titans of Mathematics Clash Over Epic Proof of ABC Conjecture," 20 Sep. 2018 Several team executives were bemused by his decision to leave the combine entirely, after spending an entire year away from basketball. Jeremy Woo,, "Draft Dispatch: Combine Standouts, Buzz and Luka Doncic’s Potential Return to Europe," 17 May 2018 Customers should be advised to bring semaphores in order to gain the attention of the waitstaff, which seems unaccustomed to any action at all and slightly bemused to encounter actual humans in their midst. Fox, Town & Country, "A Table for Mr. Fox," 21 Nov. 2012 Laughing staff and other drivers were bemused to see the toddler place his order from the miniature car. Fox News, "2-year-old motorist uses McDonald's drive-thru and Ronald ain't lovin' it," 25 Apr. 2018 They were initially bemused by the complexity of bus timetables, bin collections and—most of all—by the changeable weather. The Economist, "A Welsh town shows Britain a new way to welcome refugees," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bemuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bemuse

1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near bemuse






be my guest

be mysterious

Statistics for bemuse

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

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The first known use of bemuse was in 1734

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More Definitions for bemuse



English Language Learners Definition of bemuse

: to cause (someone) to be confused and often also somewhat amused


be·​muse | \ bi-ˈmyüz How to pronounce bemuse (audio) \
bemused; bemusing

Kids Definition of bemuse

: to cause to be confused and often also somewhat amused He was bemused by all the attention he was receiving.

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More from Merriam-Webster on bemuse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bemuse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bemuse

Spanish Central: Translation of bemuse

Nglish: Translation of bemuse for Spanish Speakers

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to complain fretfully

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