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

Other Words from bemuse

bemusement \ bi-​ˈmyüz-​mənt How to pronounce bemuse (audio) , bē-​ \ 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.

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 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 The officer, bemused but apparently satisfied, took Braithwaite’s license and walked away. Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2019 Reactions from constituents to his comeback bid have ranged from bemused to horrified. Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2020 Which is why the look athletics director Joe Castiglione’s face was a mixture of bemused and puzzled when this question was raised Wednesday as Oklahoma prepared to play in Saturday’s Peach Bowl as a two-touchdown underdog to No. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 27 Dec. 2019 Bellocchi is both aghast and bemused by the psychology behind the cultural phenomenon of Mafia crime. Armond White, National Review, 31 Jan. 2020 The notion that Bolton, a longtime bugbear of Democrats who has worked in four Republican administrations, was operating furtively within the White House to advance liberal objectives bemused some who have dealt with him. Anchorage Daily News, 29 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

First Known Use of bemuse

1734, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bemuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for bemuse


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on bemuse

Nglish: Translation of bemuse for Spanish Speakers


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