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

Examples of setoff in a Sentence

Noun the architect used stone carvings as setoffs for the building's marble facing
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb More recently, the blockbuster turned critical conflagration American Dirt (a novel about migrant trauma, for which its white author was paid a seven-figure advance) set off months of heated articles. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 10 June 2022 The music group Sensations will play from 3 until 6 p.m. Fireworks will be set off at 9:15 p.m. sharp from the lakefront at Pulaski Avenue. Bob Dohr, Journal Sentinel, 8 June 2022 Carlson chatted with Cam Harless, the YouTuber who made the original sexist joke that David Weigel retweeted and which set off the chain of events that led to the current infighting. Oliver Darcy, CNN, 8 June 2022 Gunmen opened fire and set off explosives inside a Catholic Church in southwestern Nigeria Sunday, killing at least 50 people – including children – and injuring dozens more before escaping the scene, authorities said. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 6 June 2022 Gauff secured one last hold before Świątek held to win—and quickly set off to clamber up to her player’s box to hug her dad, her coach, her sports psychologist, and the rest of her team. Gerald Marzorati, The New Yorker, 4 June 2022 The front is going to take its time moving across Alabama and set off another round of rain and possibly severe storms on Friday. Leigh Morgan, al, 2 June 2022 An attempt to tow them failed, so the soldiers, with their weapons, piled aboard another armored vehicle and set off in the day’s fading light toward the front. New York Times, 1 June 2022 The walls were painted, furniture was destroyed and fire extinguishers were set off. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 21 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for setoff

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The first known use of setoff was circa 1598

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Dictionary Entries Near setoff

set off


set-off man

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Cite this Entry

“Setoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on setoff

Nglish: Translation of setoff for Spanish Speakers


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