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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Nadal joined him soon after, defusing the big serve of the American Sam Querrey to win, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, on No. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "A Long-Awaited Wimbledon Rematch: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal," 10 July 2019 The defusing operation was completed by mid-afternoon, according to the city’s fire service, about two hours after police verified that no one was left in the area. Washington Post, "US bomb from WWII defused in Germany after mass evacuation," 8 July 2019 His team went into a hospital and defused a half-dozen IEDs in the courtyard, in the basement and on the first floor. San Diego Union-Tribune, "A bomb blast, a phone call and a Navy family forever changed," 28 June 2019 Most presidents spend a lot of time trying to soothe fear and defuse controversy. Steve Chapman,, "Trump needs conflict like normal people need oxygen," 12 June 2019 Photo: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press China Trade: News reports that a U.S. trade delegation will travel to China in January fueled optimism that there would be some progress toward defusing trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. Dan Molinski, WSJ, "Oil Declines Amid Volatile, Thin Trading," 27 Dec. 2018 In October, rebellious soldiers protested over pay and invaded Abiy's office, but the prime minister was able to defuse the situation., "Ethiopia says military chief killed, regional coup failed," 23 June 2019 At their outpost in Raqqah, Syria, Syriac Military Council fighters Hasan Abja, Kevin Howard and Taylor Hudson display the homemade bomb and string they were issued to defuse mines. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Two buddies survived fighting Islamic State, but for one civilian life was too much," 20 June 2019 The delay is a tactic that the government uses to defuse the anger. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, "Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Backs Down, but the Protests Continue," 17 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of defuse

1943, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about defuse

Statistics for defuse

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for defuse

The first known use of defuse was in 1943

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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)

Keep scrolling for more

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).


providing supplementary assistance

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!