de·​fuse | \(ˌ)dē-ˈfyüz \

Definition of defuse 

transitive verb

1 : to remove the fuse from (a mine, a bomb. etc.)

2 : to make less harmful, potent, or tense defuse a crisis

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defuse or diffuse?

Many people find it difficult to remember the difference between defuse and diffuse, and when faced with the need for one of these words simply grab whichever one first comes to mind. But it needn’t be this way: the meanings of these two are quite a bit different, and there is a simple way to differentiate between them. Defuse is formed by adding the prefix de- to the word fuse; you are removing the fuse (either literally or figuratively) when you defuse a situation, much as defanging something entails removing the fangs. Diffuse, when used as a verb, tends to carry meanings such as “spread” or “scatter.” Additionally, diffuse is the only one which may be found used as an adjective.

Examples of defuse in a Sentence

Skilled negotiators helped defuse the crisis.

Recent Examples on the Web

It was defused last year and 65,000 people had to be evacuated. Erik Kirschbaum,, "In a city littered with World War II-era explosives, Berlin's bomb squad is always on alert," 14 June 2018 Sterling Height Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski credited the cooperation of multiple police agencies in arresting the suspect and defusing the threat. Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, "Cops say terrorist threat to Lakeside Mall thwarted; Shelby Township man, 20, held," 12 Mar. 2018 That could help defuse tensions between the world’s two largest economies, at least somewhat. New York Times, "Trump Backs Softer Restrictions on Chinese Investment," 27 June 2018 Speaking Sunday at a gathering of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Qingdao, China, the Russian leader noted Beijing's contribution to helping defuse tensions around North Korea. Fox News, "The Latest: Putin welcomes Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore," 10 June 2018 As part of his role, Bari helped to defuse tensions between British forces and locals in the areas around the Afghan capital. Zahid Mahmood, CNN, "Afghan who risked life for UK: 'They are sending me to get killed'," 4 May 2018 On Thursday, hours after creating an emotional interruption at his brother's funeral, Stevante Clark helped defuse tension by asking protesters not to block thousands of fans from entering a downtown NBA arena for a third night. Don Thompson And Sophia Bollag,, "Stephon Clark shot 7 times from behind by Sacramento police, according to independent autopsy," 30 Mar. 2018 Spurred by the civilian Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, Beck equipped his 10,000 officers with body cameras and instituted training focused on defusing volatile encounters. Cindy Chang,, "Chief Charlie Beck says goodbye to the LAPD," 28 June 2018 President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has urged both the United States and North Korea to soften their stances so talks could begin on defusing the crisis, which appeared to push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war in the past year. Choe Sang-hun, New York Times, "North Korea, Seeking ‘Equal Footing,’ Rejects Preconditions for U.S. Talks," 3 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defuse.' 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 defuse

1943, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for defuse

Last Updated

3 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for defuse

The first known use of defuse was in 1943

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More Definitions for defuse



English Language Learners Definition of defuse

: to make (something) less serious, difficult, or tense

: to remove the part of (an explosive) that makes it explode : to remove the fuse from (an explosive)

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Comments on defuse

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


playful or foolish behavior

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