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 The two started talking frequently by phone, according to Politico, with McCarthy working to defuse tensions between the Republican establishment and the outsider plowing his way toward the presidency. Lissandra Villa, Time, "Kevin McCarthy’s Gamble on a “Big Tent” GOP," 23 Apr. 2021 Though the department had previously trained its officers on de-escalation techniques, the new standalone policy mandates that officers try to defuse a situation. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Murder of George Floyd prompted some policing reforms in San Diego County," 20 Apr. 2021 As part of Monday's media event, Deepak Chopra led a short five-minute meditative exercise to defuse stress. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Fitbit introduces ‘fashion forward’ fitness tracker that emphasizes stress management," 19 Apr. 2021 The Minneapolis curfew also includes exemptions for organizations partnering with the city to defuse tensions. Katie Galioto, Star Tribune, "Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center, other suburbs impose curfews after Wright killing, unrest," 13 Apr. 2021 You’ll be surprised by how effectively that reminder can defuse a situation. Larry Dunivan, Forbes, "Managing Employee Activism: Not For The Faint Of Heart," 7 Apr. 2021 The Biden administration has already moved to defuse trade tensions with Europe, which the Trump administration treated as an adversary. New York Times, "America’s Record-Setting Stimulus Could Power a Rebound in Other Countries," 2 Apr. 2021 Hall told the New York Times last June that Floyd didn't resist the arrest and instead attempted to defuse the situation. David Aaro, Fox News, "Derek Chauvin trial: Key witness to invoke the 5th Amendment, refuses to testify," 1 Apr. 2021 Iran has proven adept during past nuclear talks at forcing concessions from its Western partners to defuse a crisis. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Europeans Ease Pressure on Iran in Bid to Revive Nuclear Talks With U.S.," 4 Mar. 2021

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

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Defuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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)

More from Merriam-Webster on defuse

Nglish: Translation of defuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defuse for Arabic Speakers

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