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

The waters were muddied in 2007, when City Light’s buying of carbon offsets was challenged. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Surplus City Light properties could be sold below market value for low-income housing," 30 July 2018 In addition, the new $2,000 credit is a dollar-for-dollar offset of taxes. Laura Saunders, WSJ, "Your Kids Could Lower Your Tax Bill Like Never Before," 31 Aug. 2018 In return, Sealaska can sell carbon-offset credits to California companies that must curb their emissions under state law. Jake Bullinger, Outside Online, "How to Make Millions While Saving a Forest," 7 May 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the First Concerto, from 1939, Price still adheres to a 19th-century concerto format, with quicksilver solo passages offset by a touchingly nostalgic second movement (and given a lustrous reading by Ms. Kahng). Brian Wise, WSJ, "Florence Price in Concert and on Disc: A Harvest of Rediscovery," 5 Dec. 2018 The lip color transmitted freshness and sophistication when offset by a swipe of bronzer. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Margot Robbie Pulls Off a Bold Makeup Risk Inspired by Her Chanel Jacket," 16 Nov. 2018 With hundreds of races still too close to call, Democrats have won at least 370 new state legislative seats nationwide, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, although the new seats were offset by Republican wins in some cases. Steve Peoples, The Seattle Times, "More races go to Democrats, including Senate seat in Ariz.," 13 Nov. 2018 This helped offset declines in the U.S. where Burberry is becoming choosier about which retailers sell its products. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "Burberry Starts to Justify Investors’ Faith," 8 Nov. 2018 Well, not so much the eyes themselves, but the eye region: the plump cheeks, the bold brow, and the plumed lashes offset by all that dewy, sculpted skin. Elissa Strauss, Glamour, "The Changing Face of Beauty In America," 8 Oct. 2018 In that case, however, the department said the loss of U.S. funding would be more than offset by other nations, including Saudi Arabia, which announced a $150 million contribution for Syria stabilization just hours before the American announcement. Matthew Lee, Fox News, "US cuts aid to Palestinians by more than $200 million," 24 Aug. 2018 A few days ago, Gartner and IDC reported that the PC market grew last quarter, with strong commercial sales more than offsetting declines in the consumer space; Microsoft's numbers would appear to agree. Peter Bright, Ars Technica, "Microsoft posts bumper Q4, with Windows, Surface, Azure all up," 20 July 2018 Republicans’ losses in these areas are offset by their gains elsewhere. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trumpism doesn’t win majorities. And Trump doesn’t care.," 7 Nov. 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

10 Dec 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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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).


a nest or breeding place

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