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 Before experts defused the two bombs, helicopters patrolled overhead to ensure everyone had evacuated., "Mass Evacuation Underway in German City Over WWII Bombs," 8 May 2020 Helicopters patrolled overhead to ensure everyone had evacuated before experts defused the two bombs. Fox News, "German city defuses rare World War II bombs after mass evacuation," 13 Jan. 2020 Evolution, Shepherd says, is the ultimate MacGyver, referring to the 1980s TV hero who could defuse a bomb with bubble gum and a paper clip. Quanta Magazine, "Cells Talk in a Language That Looks Like Viruses," 2 May 2018 The move was aimed at defusing fears the coronavirus outbreak might stunt global economic activity. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Dow soars nearly 1,200 points as investors weigh Biden resurgence, efforts to guard economies against coronavirus," 4 Mar. 2020 The department has improved training for defusing situations and worked extensively on community engagement. Robert Higgs, cleveland, "Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams says staffing now above 1,600, wants to focus on stability, efficiency, good policing," 19 Feb. 2020 The government clamped down on unregulated lending between 2017 and early 2019 during a campaign aimed at defusing rising debt risks. Laura He, CNN, "China is really worried about unemployment. Here's what it's doing to avoid mass layoffs," 13 Jan. 2020 The comments were China’s first response to a deal signed off by Trump on Thursday that would halt higher tariffs planned for Dec. 15 and represent the first phase in defusing the trade war that’s shaken the global economy. Time, "Trump Says U.S. and China Have Reached Trade Deal, Drops Tariffs Scheduled for Sunday," 13 Dec. 2019 The comments are China’s first response to a deal signed off by Trump on Thursday that would halt higher tariffs planned for Dec. 15 and represent the first phase in defusing the trade war that’s shaken the global economy. Fortune, "Trump Reaches Trade Deal with China; U.S. to Roll Back Tariffs in Stages," 13 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for defuse

Time Traveler

The first known use of defuse was in 1943

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Statistics for defuse

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for defuse


How to pronounce defuse (audio)

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

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