re·fus·al | \ ri-ˈfyü-zəl \

Definition of refusal 

1 : the act of refusing or denying

2 : the opportunity or right of refusing or taking before others

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of refusal in a Sentence

My request for more money was met with a flat refusal. his flat refusal of our reasonable request was rather startling

Recent Examples on the Web

Pettigrew was arrested and taken to the Allegheny County Jail, where the complaint says he was placed in a restraint chair because of a refusal to listen to orders. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-Detroit Lion Brandon Pettigrew reportedly punches cop, arrested," 9 July 2018 Germany’s approach to its title defense represented the power of teamwork, unity and humility—of a restless refusal to settle for the status quo. Brian Straus,, "Quarterfinal Stage a Narrative Tipping Point for World Cup Contenders," 5 July 2018 Front man Nader Habibi sings entirely in Arabic—a passionate refusal—atop booming drums and melodic guitars. Leor Galil, Chicago Reader, "Alexa Viscius of Bunny on a bass-playing hero who makes perfect posters," 27 June 2018 All in the name of a game that repeatedly exposed him to the n-word, a refusal of service in a Baltimore restaurant, and street taunts from strangers in Boston. Bryce Miller,, "San Diego's Willie O'Ree broke NHL color barrier, charted path to hockey Hall," 26 June 2018 The President's response opens a window into his character, showing his trust in his own instincts, a desire to project toughness and a refusal to be bound by behavioral constraints observed by his predecessors. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Real-world consequences at stake in Trump's Russian roulette," 12 Apr. 2018 The girl’s whiteness, at once a color and a refusal of color, isn’t just a quality. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "“Like Life” Shows Seven Hundred Years of the Body," 24 Mar. 2018 Sawyer-Jones has framed his bill as a refusal of compliance when state laws are upheld rather than a blanket sanctuary for cannabis. Annie Ma, San Francisco Chronicle, "Berkeley could rebuff feds with sanctuary law for cannabis," 12 Feb. 2018 The two most recent tax hikes to MDC customers, commissioners have said, have been impacted by DEEP’s refusal to pay for treating the groundwater coming from the landfill. Mikaela Porter,, "MDC To DEEP: Come Up With Clean-Up Plan, $5.8 Million By Sept. 1 For Hartford Landfill Groundwater," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refusal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of refusal

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about refusal

Dictionary Entries near refusal








Phrases Related to refusal

(the right of) first refusal

Statistics for refusal

Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for refusal

The first known use of refusal was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for refusal



English Language Learners Definition of refusal

: an act of saying or showing that you will not do, give, or accept something : an act of refusing


re·fus·al | \ ri-ˈfyü-zəl \

Kids Definition of refusal

: the act of showing unwillingness to do, give, or allow something a refusal to answer questions

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on refusal

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


the setting in which something occurs

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!