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

More in the Markets For one thing, crisis-risk offset strategies are unlikely to provide much shelter if the value of long-term bonds comes under pressure, consultants say. Gregory Zuckerman, WSJ, "October Rout Will Test Pensions’ Wall Street Crash Protection," 14 Oct. 2018 The problem, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained at the time, was a disagreement about budgetary offsets: Obama’s plan costs $59.7 billion over ten years. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Paul Ryan’s farewell address contained a blaze of nonsense about poverty," 20 Dec. 2018 The caps on discretionary spending should not be lifted in 2019, and any new spending program should require a real spending offset. Phil Gramm And, WSJ, "The Debt Threat to the Economy," 10 Dec. 2018 Greater corporate investment offset downward revisions in spending by state and local governments and consumers. Christopher Rugaber, The Seattle Times, "US economy grew at brisk 3.5 pct. annual rate last quarter," 28 Nov. 2018 After becoming speaker, however, Ryan completely neglected the question of offsets and pay-fors. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Paul Ryan’s farewell address contained a blaze of nonsense about poverty," 20 Dec. 2018 The Legislature subsequently gave City Light the statutory authority to buy carbon offsets, and the utility has since then continued to buy them. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Surplus City Light properties could be sold below market value for low-income housing," 30 July 2018 And while Apple and its supporters still frequently point to the growing services business as an important offset, most of Apple’s services remain closely tied to its devices. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Apple: Time to Think Very Different," 4 Jan. 2019 Worldwide, bike- and run-commuting offset more than 1.3 billion pounds of CO2. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active, According to a New Strava Report," 28 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Together, these bike- and run-commuters in the U.S. offset 156.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide in 2018. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "The 2 Things That Will Help Motivate You to Be More Active, According to a New Strava Report," 28 Nov. 2018 Not until Amazon has Prime Now in every city in America, or its drone delivery program up and running (which won’t happen any time soon), can the company offset those trends by shipping products even faster. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Why Amazon’s future depends on moving from the internet to the physical world," 2 Nov. 2018 But her strong party backing, financial position and name recognition have offset those potential stumbling blocks. Gregg Re, Fox News, "California's key primaries: Trump-backed John Cox outpaces Villaraigosa for governor, Feinstein takes top spot in Senate contest," 2 Oct. 2018 Regardless, the return — after a four-game suspension, the offseason's most recent setback — of Julian Edelman, who will be a year removed from his ACL tear by opening day, should largely offset any concerns in the receiving corps. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Patriots training camp questions: Will rocky offseason carry over for AFC champions?," 13 July 2018 The county’s taxing jurisdictions — schools, cities and county government — can offset higher property values by reducing their tax rates. Arielle Kass, ajc, "Property taxes expected to rise in Fulton County and cities," 11 July 2018 The team must offset the loss of defensive linemen Demone Harris and Chris Ford and defensive backs Tim Roberts and Ryan Williamson. Matt Murschel,, "Buffalo is No. 52 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 5 July 2018 These factors, some bullish for oil prices, some bearish, may offset each other. The Economist, "The American president is stirring up trouble in a volatile oil market," 4 July 2018 Even the success of Avengers: Infinity War, which has grossed some $45 million in the territory to date and is the year's top grosser in the country so far, couldn't offset the decline. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, "German Box Office Drops 17 Percent in First Half," 4 July 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

5 Mar 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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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