de·​fuse | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈfyüz \
defused; defusing; defuses

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

By defusing that defense, the Buckeyes gave Urban Meyer a victory in his final game as Ohio State’s head coach. Joseph D’hippolito, The Seattle Times, "The key to Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win over Washington wasn’t Dwayne Haskins or Urban Meyer," 1 Jan. 2019 For the Commission, the agreement defuses what had been a tense standoff with one of the bloc’s founding members at a time when the EU is struggling with the growth of populist parties, Brexit and other major challenges. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Italy’s Growth Woes Set to Persist Despite EU Budget Blessing," 19 Dec. 2018 Pakistan's military said late Tuesday that local generals reached the understanding using a special hotline set up to defuse tensions in Kashmir, which is split between Indian and Pakistani zones of control. NBC News, "Pakistan, India agree to stop exchanging fire in Kashmir," 30 May 2018 There are two near-term tests of whether the Buenos Aires agreement will defuse trade tensions. Bob Davis, WSJ, "U.S. Maintains Hard Line as Details Emerge in Trade Truce With China," 9 Dec. 2018 Each asymmetric, first-person shootout pits five cops against five terrorists, and the former must storm a locked-down building and either kill all the terrorists or defuse a bomb within a time limit. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "The 16 surprising new games that made PAX West an absolute blast," 9 Sep. 2018 The compromise bill came together as House Republican leaders tried to defuse a rebellion from moderates seeking action to protect the Dreamers. Thomas Kaplan, New York Times, "House Rejects Hard-Line Immigration Bill and Delays Vote on Compromise," 21 June 2018 Instead, Craig-Arriba and Powe returned, looking to defuse the situation. Anita Chabria, sacbee, "Police were called to handle an escalating mental-health crisis. This is why they backed off | The Sacramento Bee," 20 May 2018 In a brief phone call with the president that Read sought on Tuesday night to defuse the uproar, the CEO backed down and deferred the hikes. Kate Sheridan, STAT, "How Pfizer’s CEO flew under the political radar with price hikes — until he tangled with Trump," 13 July 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

13 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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More from Merriam-Webster on defuse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defuse

Spanish Central: Translation of defuse

Nglish: Translation of defuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defuse for Arabic Speakers

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).


tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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