defuse

verb
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

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 For the Commission, the agreement defuses what had been a tense standoff with one of the bloc’s founding members at a time when the EU is struggling with the growth of populist parties, Brexit and other major challenges. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Italy’s Growth Woes Set to Persist Despite EU Budget Blessing," 19 Dec. 2018 Pakistan's military said late Tuesday that local generals reached the understanding using a special hotline set up to defuse tensions in Kashmir, which is split between Indian and Pakistani zones of control. NBC News, "Pakistan, India agree to stop exchanging fire in Kashmir," 30 May 2018 There are two near-term tests of whether the Buenos Aires agreement will defuse trade tensions. Bob Davis, WSJ, "U.S. Maintains Hard Line as Details Emerge in Trade Truce With China," 9 Dec. 2018

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

24 Feb 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

defuse

verb

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to corrupt or become corrupted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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