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

set off; setting off; sets 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

Demonstrators who set off flares near the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown late Saturday had their faces covered, and law enforcement officials are trying to determine whether they are linked to an alt-right group, authorities say. Travis Andersen,, "Police investigating whether alt-right group is linked to fireworks incident near Bunker Hill Monument," 9 July 2019 But that was a lie that set off a series of mistakes and ultimately sent the driver to federal prison for almost four years., "Six-time convicted felon lies, implicates brother, then gets assault rifle back from state police after crash," 9 July 2019 At Mount Diablo, for instance, Cal Fire said the Morgan Fire was started when a bullet from a target shooter hit a rock to set off a spark. Tom Stienstra,, "With 147 million dead trees, Californians brace again for fire," 4 July 2019 For travelers anxious about being patted down, Baker says the NSVRC recommends trying to avoid extra security altogether by being more mindful of things that could set off alarms—keys, belts, coins. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "What to Do if You Think Your TSA Screening Crosses a Line," 2 July 2019 With his nation trailing Jamaica 1-0 and needing a point, Gaari thumped home a first-time hit from 25 yards, a screamer that set off celebrations and salvaged a 1-1 draw. Avi Creditor,, "Curacao Reaches Gold Cup Quarterfinals Thanks to Stoppage-Time Stunner," 26 June 2019 On the Great Recession and its aftermath: The financial crisis was caused in part by lax, greedy lenders who set off an unsustainable housing boom. Chicago Tribune, Twin Cities, "Other voices: In praise of ingenuity: America’s record economic expansion," 23 June 2019 Shaw also recommended a Weather-Alert radio, which sets off a very loud alarm under dangerous conditions. Thomas Jewell,, "Solon council agrees to long-awaited logo change, further branding campaign," 18 June 2019 Everyone knows the story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the little engine that could in New York’s 14th congressional district, where her stunning primary victory over Joe Crowley set off a firestorm. Lily Herman,, "Yes, A Woman Can Beat Trump In 2020. Here's How.," 15 June 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 form ideas or theories about something

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