de·​fuse | \ (ˌ)dē-ˈfyüz How to pronounce defuse (audio) \
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

Some waved it off as a desperate attempt to defuse a P.R. nightmare. Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times, "Why Starbucks’s Bias Training, Despite Skepticism, Is an Important Start," 28 May 2018 In an apparent attempt to defuse trade tensions, Chinese President Xi Jinping then pledged last month to cut tariffs on autos, and to ease foreign-investment restrictions in the country’s auto sector. Trefor Moss, WSJ, "China to Cut Import Tariff on Autos to 15% From 25%," 22 May 2018 Video surveillance viewed as part of the report, however, said Johnson and another detention officer appeared to respond appropriately and attempted to defuse the situation. NBC News, "Miami corrections officer charged in teen's death used bribery system, indictment says," 30 Apr. 2018 Dave Ford, a San Francisco publicist, said that the community’s use of the word is an effort to defuse its power to hurt. Johnny Miller, San Francisco Chronicle, "RFK gunned down at Ambassador, 1993," 30 May 2018 In response, the Justice Department moved Sunday to defuse a growing confrontation with the White House by asking its watchdog to investigate whether there was inappropriate surveillance. Jonathan Lemire And Darlene Superville, USA TODAY, "Giuliani says Mueller's investigation of Trump, obstruction could end by Sept. 1," 21 May 2018 Both sides have lately sought to defuse the confrontation, after earlier taking a hard line in a dispute that revived fears of a financial crisis in the eurozone. Marcus Walker, WSJ, "Italy Says It Struck a Budget-Deficit Compromise With EU," 18 Dec. 2018 While the president’s statement sought to defuse the controversy, the upcoming weeklong celebration of McCain’s life is likely to bring new awkwardness. Catherine Lucey, The Seattle Times, "Under pressure, Trump tersely recognizes McCain, lowers flag," 27 Aug. 2018 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

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

7 Apr 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).


an act or instance of returning to life

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