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

On that night, the home side played out of their skin to earn the replay through Steve Davies' injury time equaliser as Spurs watched on bemused., "Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale: VAR Reaches New Levels of Controversy as Spurs Keep Trophy Hopes Alive," 28 Feb. 2018 The Voyager received positive (if someone bemused) press coverage when it was announced, even making it to the cover of PC Magazine in 2002. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "The crowdfunded phone of the future was a multimillion-dollar scam," 13 Aug. 2019 Written with great affection and warmth by a dad as proud as he is bemused, Eclipsed is a hilarious story and insight into family life. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "People Think that Tom Holland’s Dad Was Trying to Shade His Son’s Success," 9 Aug. 2019 That the work is little known or remembered today puzzled the author’s many friends and left Reich, who moved to San Francisco four decades ago, bemused and at least as philosophical as anything in his book. Steve Rubenstein,, "Law professor Charles Reich, author of ‘Greening of America,’ dies at 91," 5 July 2019 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

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

28 Sep 2019

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The first known use of bemuse was in 1734

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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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