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 \ bi-​ˈmyüz-​mənt How to pronounce bemusement (audio) , bē-​ \ 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 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,, "Someone ate the $120,000 banana duct-taped to the wall of an art gallery," 8 Dec. 2019 The officer, bemused but apparently satisfied, took Braithwaite’s license and walked away. Washington Post, "A man driving a banana car was pulled over. Instead of a ticket, the cop gave him a $20.," 22 Nov. 2019 Reactions from constituents to his comeback bid have ranged from bemused to horrified. Washington Post, "D.C. Council members denounce Jack Evans for seeking seat he gave up," 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, "Oklahoma downplays pressure to win after losses in three College Football Playoff appearances," 27 Dec. 2019 Bellocchi is both aghast and bemused by the psychology behind the cultural phenomenon of Mafia crime. Armond White, National Review, "The Traitor Reimagines the Gangster Film and Modern Morality," 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, "Anatomy of a smear: How John Bolton became the target of the pro-Trump internet," 29 Jan. 2020 She was excited by the young company’s approach to news, and bemused by its lack of bureaucracy. Kira Bindrim, Quartz, "Remembering Xana Antunes, a mentor to just about everyone she met," 28 Jan. 2020 Hoping for a, say, Marcelo Bielsa-esque man in charge, owner Massimo Cellino's decision to place Hockaday in the dugout was a bemusing one., "8 of the Most Bizarre Managerial Appointments Football Has Seen," 13 Oct. 2019

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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The first known use of bemuse was in 1734

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Cite this Entry

“Bemuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for bemuse


How to pronounce bemuse (audio)

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.

More from Merriam-Webster on bemuse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bemuse

Nglish: Translation of bemuse for Spanish Speakers

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