be·​muse | \bi-ˈmyüz, 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 \ 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

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 Even a rookie defender offered his opinion as Kerr watched bemused. Michael Powell, New York Times, "You Knew the Warriors Were Coming Back. The Rockets Did, Too.," 29 May 2018 Samuel Umtiti then gifted the Socceroos a chance to equalise with a bemusing handball under very little pressure inside his own area., "World Cup Preview: France vs Peru - Recent Form, Previous Encounter, Team News, Predictions & More," 20 June 2018 Her mother just passed away, and Annie is bemused, or half-ashamed, at feeling insufficiently sad. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“Hereditary” Delivers a New Kind of Horror," 7 June 2018 Purists may be less enchanted, bemused by Miller’s sentimental leanings and her determination to make Circe into an ultimately likable, or at least forgivable, character. Claire Messud, New York Times, "Turning Circe Into a Good Witch," 28 May 2018 Hosmer seemed to genuinely fluctuate between being perturbed and bemused before Wednesday’s game against the Nationals. Kevin Acee,, "Eric Hosmer shocked by supposed rift with Andy Green, hint of Padres discord," 9 May 2018 That said, Pogba is understood to be bemused by the whole affair and the relationship between the pair is thought to be extremely fragile at this point - and Real Madrid are keeping a close eye on the matter., "Real Madrid Circle Paul Pogba After Details Emerge of Jose Mourinho Bust-Up During Derby," 17 Apr. 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

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Last Updated

23 Nov 2018

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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 \
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

Comments on bemuse

What made you want to look up bemuse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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