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

Immigrants’ advocates fear that his move could defuse the public pressure as family separations give way to family internment camps. Molly Ball, Time, "Trump Backed Down, But the Crisis at the Border Is Far From Over," 21 June 2018 Taking ownership and apologizing defuses the situation and helps us retain something priceless: our reputation and credibility. James S. Cassel, miamiherald, "Is the decline in truth, accountability in Washington lowering standards for ethics in middle-market businesses?," 18 June 2018 Eventually, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles, partly in return for a secret agreement by Kennedy to take US missiles out of Turkey and one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War was defused. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump's toughness on Russia judged against his predecessors," 9 June 2018 The bomb was eventually recovered from the bottom of the Thames river and detonated at a secure location off the coast of England, as defusing it would have been too risky. The Washington Post,, "Unexploded WWII bomb forces mass evacuation in Berlin," 20 Apr. 2018 They are joined by David Caravaggio, a friend of Hana’s family from Toronto who is a professional thief turned military spy, and by Kirpal Singh, a Sikh soldier, charged with defusing bombs and mines in the area. New York Times, "Notes From the Book Review Archives," 8 June 2018 German authorities ordered the evacuation of some 10,000 residents in a 9,000-square-foot area in the heart of the government district as experts prepared to defuse the 1,100-pound British bomb. Andrea Thomas, WSJ, "World War II Bomb Disposal in Berlin Forces Evacuation of Thousands," 20 Apr. 2018 Some 10,000 residents and workers were forced to leave an area of about a square mile, including the train station, while bomb experts defused the 1,100-pound British bomb dropped during the war., "WWII bomb defused in Berlin after large evacuation," 20 Apr. 2018 It's only been slightly altered in an attempt to defuse the negative response. Marlisse Cepeda, Woman's Day, "Florida High School Implements Bizarre Bathroom Policy," 27 Mar. 2015

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

8 Sep 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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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