set·​off | \ ˈset-ˌȯf How to pronounce setoff (audio) \

Definition of setoff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that is set off against another thing:
2 : the reduction or discharge of a debt or claim by setting against it a distinct claim in favor of the debtor or party who is the object of the first claim (as in a lawsuit) also : the offsetting claim itself

set off


Definition of set off (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to put in relief : show up by contrast
c : to set apart : make distinct or outstanding
2a : offset, compensate more variety in the Lancashire weather to set off its most disagreeable phasesGeog. Jour.
b : to make a setoff of the respective totals shall be set off against one another— O. R. Hobson
3a : to set in motion : cause to begin
b : to cause to explode
4 : to measure off on a surface

intransitive verb

: to start out on a course or a journey set off for home

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Examples of setoff in a Sentence


the architect used stone carvings as setoffs for the building's marble facing

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Los Angeles–based Mellon then met with the pair at their Greenwich Village boutique to discuss designs and look at fabric swatches, before Miller and Zhao set off for Ghana to source material. Vogue, "Tamara Mellon’s Colorful Kitenge-Print Shoes Provide a Step Up for Women in Ghana," 7 Mar. 2019 Her maid, Lizzie (who turns out to be a not very bright busybody) sees them arguing and that sets off a chain of events which will lead to disaster in later episodes. Outlander Fan, Marie Claire, "5 Biggest Takeaways From 'Outlander' Season 4 Episode 8," 24 Dec. 2018 Of the 30 teams that set off from Victoria for the 710-mile main leg of the race, only 21 actually finished. Alexa Philippou, The Seattle Times, "Sail like a girl: How an all-female team made history and won the 750-mile Race to Alaska," 14 July 2018 The neutrino that set off the alarm in 2017 had an energy of some 300 trillion electron volts, by the units of energy and mass that physicists prefer. Dennis Overbye, New York Times, "It Came From a Black Hole, and Landed in Antarctica," 12 July 2018 Italy’s new populist government had refused Thursday to sign off on an earlier list of joint conclusions — which also touched on defense, trade and technology — in a tactic that set off the marathon negotiations. Washington Post, "E.U. leaders agree on the outline of a migration deal," 29 June 2018 Troopers assigned to the airport were called to the security lines just after 6 a.m., and they were told that Kamaiyah had refused to remove a head cover that had set off analarm, state police said. Nicholas Rondinone,, "Hip-Hop Artist Arrested After Alleged Bradley Airport Tirade, Police Say," 11 May 2018 On her eyes, Rihanna went for a dark plum smokey eye that perfectly set off the bright pink lips and gave a bit of dark drama to the holy outfit. Melissa Minton, Allure, "Every Fenty Beauty Product Rihanna Wore at the 2018 Met Gala," 8 May 2018 Normal people have to adapt, often setting off on an odyssey to a safe location far away, in this case Alaska. Tom Shippey, WSJ, "Science Fiction: On the Edge in the Golden State," 8 Feb. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'setoff.' 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 setoff


1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1598, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Dictionary Entries near setoff


set nut

set off


set-off man

setoff sheet

set on

Statistics for setoff

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for setoff

The first known use of setoff was circa 1598

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More Definitions for setoff


\ ˈset-ˌȯf\

Legal Definition of set-off

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the reduction or discharge of a debt by setting against it a claim in favor of the debtor specifically : the reduction or discharge of a party's debt or claim by an assertion of another claim arising out of another transaction or cause of action against the other party
2a : a right to seek reduction or discharge of a debt or claim by countering a party's claim with an independent claim
b : a counterclaim made by a defendant against a plaintiff for reduction or discharge of a debt by reason of an independent debt owed by the plaintiff to the defendant — compare recoupment sense 2

set off

transitive verb

Legal Definition of set off (Entry 2 of 2)

: to reduce or discharge by set-off : offset

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More from Merriam-Webster on setoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with setoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for setoff

Nglish: Translation of setoff for Spanish Speakers

Comments on setoff

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


to boil down or concentrate

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