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

transitive verb

: to make confused : puzzle, bewilder
: to occupy the attention of : distract, absorb
has bemused audiences around the world
: 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 ruminationsRuth B. Smith
bemusement noun

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 bemused 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 bemuse above. The newer (and common) use of bemuse to mean “to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement” is a topic of some dispute, as discussed here.

Did you know?

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.”

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 But for now, Bo-Katan seems mostly bemused by Mando's faith in his cult. Lauren Morgan,, 8 Mar. 2023 The justices appeared at times bemused by the implications of measuring birth against the alternative. Hartford Courant, 22 Feb. 2023 But Tati’s city is a dreamlike rather than a sinister labyrinth, with nose-bonking doors and beeping panels that bemuse and divide its residents and tourists with amazingly inventive sight gags, until, at last, some are able to—at least partially—tear it down. R. L. Lipstein, The New Yorker, 26 June 2020 Today, Troll Haven still stands sentry on the Olympic Peninsula — just as Bandy’s Southern California castles continue to amuse and bemuse Burbank residents and workers. Rachel Schnalzer, Los Angeles Times, 8 Mar. 2023 Misconceptions of modern powwows as sacred spaces bemuse the Ojibwe singer. Grayson Haver Currin, New York Times, 15 Aug. 2022 Cigar in hand and a shot of tequila nearby, Texas native White would bemuse his fans with tales of drunken escapades. Rodney Ho, ajc, 11 Jan. 2022 Among Fincher die-hards, the result will probably bemuse some, bore many, and thrill a relative but hearty minority. Mark Olsen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 4 Dec. 2020 According to Peggy Leboeuf, a partner at Perrotin Gallery, a startled, and bemused, a woman in the crowd thought the original artist — Cattelan — was eating his own banana off the wall. Howard Cohen and Siobhan Morrissey,, 8 Dec. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bemuse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bemuse was in 1734


Dictionary Entries Near bemuse

Cite this Entry

“Bemuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


be·​muse bi-ˈmyüz How to pronounce bemuse (audio)
: to cause to have feelings of tolerant amusement
bemused by the many rumors

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