off·set | \ˈȯf-ˌset \

Definition of offset 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a archaic : outset, start

b : cessation rapid regular beating of the heart … characterized by sudden onset and sudden offset— H. J. Stewart

2a(1) : a short prostrate (see prostrate entry 1 sense 3) lateral shoot arising from the base of a plant

(2) : a small bulb arising from the base of another bulb

b : a lateral or collateral (see collateral entry 2 sense 2) branch (as of a family or race) : offshoot

c : a spur (see spur entry 1 sense 4a) from a range of hills

3a : a horizontal ledge on the face of a wall formed by a diminution of its thickness above

b : displacement

c : an abrupt change in the dimension or profile of an object (such as a bowl) or the part set off by such change

4 : something that sets off to advantage or embellishes something else : foil The clown was a humorous offset in the play.

5 : an abrupt bend in an object (such as a pipe or a rod) by which one part is turned aside out of line

6 : something that serves to counterbalance or to compensate for something else demands conspicuous offsets to the enemy's successes especially : either of two balancing ledger items

7a : unintentional transfer of ink (as from a freshly printed sheet)

b : a printing process in which an inked impression from a plate is first made on a rubber-blanketed cylinder and then transferred to the paper being printed


off·set | \ˈȯf-ˌset, vt senses are also ȯf-ˈset\
offset; offsetting

Definition of offset (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to place over against something : balance credits offset debits

b : to serve as a counterbalance for : compensate his speed offset his opponent's greater weight

2 : to form an offset in offset a wall

intransitive verb

: to become marked by offset

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Other Words from offset


offset adjective or adverb

Examples of offset in a Sentence


a better performance this time will be an offset to last year's dismal showing symptoms that were striking for their abrupt onset and their equally abrupt offset


Gains in one area offset losses in another. The limited storage space in the house is offset by the large garage.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

This is a sharp reversal for the state, which was once required to build the Red-Blue connector as an environmental offset for the Big Dig highway project, but then lobbied for years to ditch the job. Adam Vaccaro,, "Could the MBTA finally connect the Red and Blue lines? The state is looking into it, again," 3 Apr. 2018 The third-offset strategy also foresaw a future in which advanced Chinese missiles would push vulnerable U.S. aircraft carriers further out to sea. Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, "Shawn Brimley, military strategist who led a Pentagon modernization push, dies at 40," 12 Jan. 2018 John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said such offsets would violate a Clean Air Act requirement that cutbacks happen in the same area where pollution increases occur. Washington Post, "Trump orders faster issuance of air pollution permits," 12 Apr. 2018 On top of all of this, Arkansas could have to pay assistant coaches more than $3.6 million, subject to offsets from future income, although one member of that group has been hired by UCLA. Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY, "College football coaching moves costing schools at least $110 million," 8 Jan. 2018 Each year the state legislature creates new tuition waiver categories with no funding offset. miamiherald, "Leigh-Ann Buchanan," 30 June 2018 The agreement with the village proposes an annual subsidy to Harp of $750,000, while the property tax abatements are expected to generate a tax offset of about $675,000 each year. Mike Nolan, Daily Southtown, "Tinley Park works on tax breaks for prospective new owner of hotel," 21 June 2018 But that offset is no longer happening, experts say. NBC News, "With death rate up, U.S. life expectancy is likely down again," 24 May 2018 The provision that would reduce and possibly eliminate your spouse's survivor benefit is actually the government pension offset. Liz Weston,, "If you're putting money in a 401(k) and an IRA at the same time, be ready for the taxes," 29 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Tesla has had to raise the price of its electric cars in China to offset the cost of the government’s retaliatory tariffs on American vehicles. The Economist, "Business this week," 12 July 2018 Nold said there are ways to offset the cost of the public safety building. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New Oconomowoc police station may cost $2 million more than originally anticipated," 11 July 2018 The idea behind the mandate was to make sure young and healthy customers are buying into the system, to offset the cost of taking on more sick and elderly customers. Alex Pappas, Fox News, "Liberal states impose new individual mandate ahead of ObamaCare rollback," 6 July 2018 But Mid Continent had to increase the price of its products to offset the cost of the tariffs. NBC News, "Trump's trade war might close down America's last nail factory — but workers remain diehard Trump fans," 29 June 2018 The purpose of the fee was to offset the cost of that activity, Kirkeeng said. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Lincoln-Way backs off $50 'participation fee' for all students," 28 June 2018 The dues are meant to offset the cost of the union negotiating labor contracts and undertaking other activities that benefit members. Doug Finke,, "Supreme Court to rule on public-sector union fees in Janus vs. AFSCME case," 25 June 2018 This move was aimed at offsetting the high cost of rights to SBS, a hybrid commercial-public broadcaster which has suffered several cuts to its government funding in recent years. Pip Bulbeck, The Hollywood Reporter, "Soccer World Cup: Australian Broadcaster Steps in After Telco's Live Streaming Breaks Down," 18 June 2018 The organizers are demanding a raise in the minimum wage for factory workers from $5.36 a day to $15.31, and that Moïse fulfill promises to provide workers with transportation and other social benefits to offset the rising cost of living. Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "As Taiwan loses another ally to China, Haiti's president heads to Taipei to negotiate | Miami Herald," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'offset.' 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 offset


circa 1555, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1673, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for offset

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for offset

The first known use of offset was circa 1555

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More Definitions for offset



Financial Definition of offset

What It Is

An offset is a transaction that cancels out the effects of another transaction.

How It Works

Offsetting transactions are common in options and futures markets. For example, let's say John Doe sells an option to buy 100 shares of Company XYZ with a strike price of $20 per share. The option expires in one year. Because John is locked into the contract, he cannot just ignore it. So, he enters into an offsetting transaction by buying an identical opposite transaction (buying an option to sell 100 shares of Company XYZ with a strike price of $20 that expires in one year). This offsets the risk he bears with the first option.

Why It Matters

Offsetting transactions are risk-management tools, and investors and companies use them when they cannot simply cancel the original transaction. In the derivatives markets, this happens when investors cannot accept a delivery of thousands of pounds of coffee from a futures contract, for example.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of offset

: to cancel or reduce the effect of (something) : to create an equal balance between two things


off·set | \ˈȯf-ˌset \
offset; offsetting

Kids Definition of offset

: to make up for Gains in one state offset losses in another.

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off·set | \ˈȯf-ˌset \

Legal Definition of offset 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a claim or amount that reduces or balances another claim or amount : set-off the creditor's own debt was an offset also : the reduction or balance achieved by such a claim

off·set | \ˌȯf-ˈset \

Legal Definition of offset (Entry 2 of 2)

: to balance, reduce, or calculate by reference to another amount offset the debt against a credit

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Comments on offset

What made you want to look up offset? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that holds something together

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