off·​set | \ ˈȯf-ˌset How to pronounce offset (audio) \

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
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 How to pronounce offset (audio) , 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

Offset programs, critics say, let power plants and industry increase pollution in certain communities while buying offsets elsewhere, and have a troubled compliance record. Carolyn Kormann, The New Yorker, "How Rogue Republicans Killed Oregon’s Climate-Change Bill," 28 June 2019 The provision allowing companies to use offsets to meet emissions goals is a victory for the Business Council of New York State, the state's largest business organization. CBS News, "New York set to adopt aggressive emission reduction goals," 19 June 2019 Part of the reason the nonprofit was formed was to make the process of buying offsets easier to understand. Joe Rubino, The Denver Post, "Your food has labels. These entrepreneurs think your outdoor brands should, too — for the climate," 19 June 2019 Atmosfair uses money from offsets — typically a few euros (dollars) per person for a short-haul flight — to support small-scale carbon reduction efforts, such as buying efficient cooking stoves for families in Africa and Asia. Washington Post, "Climate of guilt: Flying no longer the high road for some," 20 June 2019 United had to truck the biofuel blend powering this month’s O’Hare flight in from an alternative fuel manufacturing plant in California that supplies its Los Angeles hub, and purchased carbon offsets to make up for the road trip. Lauren Zumbach,, "Airlines turn to sustainable fuels, carbon offsets, compostable cutlery to fend off environmental 'flight shame' stigma," 14 June 2019 From the offset, every touch the Ballon d'Or candidate made was met with a negative atmosphere from the travelling Three Lions faithful and despite spending the evening watching on from the sidelines, the young Reds defender couldn't understand it., "Joe Gomez Says Booing of Virgil van Dijk During Nations League Game 'Didn't Benefit' England," 8 June 2019 Larger programs have been funded by countries like Norway, looking to help developing countries reduce deforestation without getting offsets in return. Lisa Song, ProPublica, "These 4 Arguments Can’t Overcome the Facts About Carbon Offsets for Forest Preservation," 31 May 2019 Using a small metal spatula, either an offset or a fish spatula, will help pry the pieces off for flipping halfway through. Melissa Clark, The Seattle Times, "How to make sheet-pan suppers without the meat," 1 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In June, Republicans on the Legislature's budget-writing committee voted to cut a total of $14 million in shared revenue to Milwaukee County in 2020 and 2021 to offset increased state costs associated with the county's child welfare services. Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Tony Evers' veto restoring $14 million in shared revenue is welcome news in Milwaukee," 3 July 2019 To visually offset stark lines, go with chairs that offer curves, which bring a softness to the look and encourages your eye to move through the space. Lauren Hubbard, ELLE Decor, "Classic Pieces Every Room in Your Home Needs," 3 July 2019 However, gas prices, which have dropped to multiyear lows in the face of tepid demand, were expected to offset it by an equal measure. Washington Post, "U.S. manufacturing slowed in June," 2 July 2019 The Saudi official told CNN that the kingdom has ample spare capacity to offset Iranian barrels sidelined by US sanctions, but the bigger risk comes from potential conflict in the region. Matt Egan, CNN, "Saudi oil minister: Iran is threatening global energy supply," 2 July 2019 Instead, California will have to look to offset those emissions using negative-emissions technologies like direct air capture (DAC). Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "A tiny tweak in California law is creating a strange thing: carbon-negative oil," 1 July 2019 Economists generally believe higher minimum wages benefit workers at the bottom of the wage scale but do contribute to job losses — or slower job gains — as businesses reduce employment to offset the higher wages. Mike Rogoway,, "Oregon employers adapt to successive minimum wage hikes," 30 June 2019 Still, rising workforce participation by itself isn’t enough to offset the drag on growth from aging populations in coming decades, particularly in fast-aging countries like Japan and Germany. Sarah Chaney, WSJ, "Gray Wave of Workers Gives Slow-Growing World a Boost," 30 June 2019 While 85 percent of students are estimated to receive some kind of financial aid to offset the price tag of their education, this is how much the cost of tuition, room, board and other fees are going up at some of Indiana's schools this fall. Casey Smith, Indianapolis Star, "Many Indiana colleges and universities are increasing tuition. Here's how much they cost.," 29 June 2019

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

9 Jul 2019

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 How to pronounce offset (audio) \
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 How to pronounce offset (audio) \

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 How to pronounce offset (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on offset

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with offset

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for offset

Spanish Central: Translation of offset

Nglish: Translation of offset for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of offset for Arabic Speakers

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).


to complain fretfully

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