off·​set | \ ˈȯf-ˌset How to pronounce offset (audio) , transitive senses are also ȯf-ˈset\
offset; offsetting; offsets

Definition of offset

 (Entry 1 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


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

Definition of offset (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : 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
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 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
b : unintentional transfer of ink (as from a freshly printed sheet)
b : 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
5 : something that sets off to advantage or embellishes something else : foil The clown was a humorous offset in the play.
6 : an abrupt bend in an object (such as a pipe or a rod) by which one part is turned aside out of line
7a : cessation rapid regular beating of the heart … characterized by sudden onset and sudden offset— H. J. Stewart
b archaic : outset, start

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Other Words from offset


offset adjective or adverb

Examples of offset in a Sentence


Gains in one area offset losses in another. The limited storage space in the house is offset by the large garage.


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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As part of that effort, California helped launch a North American carbon offset program that’s regarded as one of the best in the world. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Backstory: Flight shaming and carbon offsets," 15 Sep. 2019 The subsidies are paid for by tacking charges onto Ohioans’ electricity bills, but offset by eliminating different charges that fund renewable energy projects and efficiency programs. Andrew J. Tobias,, "House Bill 6 campaign worker charged over confrontation with repeal campaign worker," 13 Sep. 2019 Volkswagen is producing its ID.3 electric sedan with wind and solar energy, and offsetting any additional emissions by financing a project in the rainforests of Borneo. Jack Ewing, New York Times, "The Concept Cars Gleam, but Executive Dread Clouds the Frankfurt Auto Show," 13 Sep. 2019 People with low incomes also are eligible for federal subsidies that offset all or almost all of the cost, including out-of-pocket expenses, of buying private health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ascension Wisconsin to provide free medical exams, dental care Saturday at North Division High School," 13 Sep. 2019 The Cubs rotation entered Wednesday night’s game with a 7.24 ERA in the first six games of this eight-game trip that concludes Thursday, offsetting signs that the offense is nearing optimum production. Mark Gonzales,, "Kris Bryant’s 1st game after getting a cortisone shot in his knee showed promise. The Cubs need a strong finish from him down the stretch.," 12 Sep. 2019 The most recent Forest Service figures show that US forests offset about 14% of the nation’s carbon emissions each year. Jan Ellen Spiegel, Quartz, "Scientists are finding that forests aren’t as good at fighting climate change as we thought," 12 Sep. 2019 The details of Nestlé's plan to reach 'net zero'—which uses offsetting methods, like planting trees, to cancel out remaining emissions—will be nailed down over the next two years. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, "Nestlé, World’s Largest Food Supplier, Aims to Eliminate All Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2050," 12 Sep. 2019 That stat captures where a Harden or Lillard could've offset a bad team performance. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, "Behind Team USA's debacle: Five reasons U.S. national team faltered," 11 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The higher rate offsets investments by transmission companies, according to Texas-New Mexico Power, which provides service in Friendswood, League City, Texas City, La Marque and Angleton. L.m. Sixel, Houston Chronicle, "Electricity costs more in Houston as transmission, distribution charges rise," 3 Sep. 2019 In the 1980s, the supply offset came from Europe — the North Sea. Ken Fisher, USA TODAY, "Why oil price swings won't burn America's economy or your 401(k)," 25 Aug. 2019 Even a quarter-inch offset in a collision sequence could result in a significant reduction in injury to the person. Eric Tegler, Popular Mechanics, "What Happens When a Drone Crashes Into Your Face?," 22 Aug. 2019 With other offsets available for as low as $0.28 per metric ton, why does Climeworks think people will pay such a steep price? Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "You can now pay to turn your carbon emissions to stone," 8 Aug. 2019 And no matter how much recycled material or carbon offsets go into a smartphone, the device can still wind up in a landfill just a year or two after purchase. Anna Washenko, Ars Technica, "Google publishes sustainability plan for hardware, but its impact is uncertain," 5 Aug. 2019 The percentage of allowable offsets is a controversial number in environmental policy. Bloomberg, The Mercury News, "How California can help save Brazil’s burning rainforests," 28 Aug. 2019 City Forest Credits, a new nonprofit based in Seattle, is selling carbon offset credits backed by urban tree planting and preservation projects to companies including Microsoft and Bank of America. Amy Crawford,, "Urban forests are crucial for combating climate change, but planting more trees is easier said than done," 16 Aug. 2019 The near-final agreement would include parity in increases in domestic and defense spending and about $75 billion in spending offsets. NBC News, "White House, Democrats close to deal on budget, debt ceiling," 22 July 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


1673, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


circa 1555, in the meaning defined at sense 7b

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Statistics for offset

Last Updated

18 Sep 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 make a temporary encampment

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