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

Noun the architect used stone carvings as setoffs for the building's marble facing
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb It was believed that the alarm was set off by two people throwing cans and other items into a gas fire pit. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, "No roller skating on the paddle tennis courts: Orange Police Blotter," 25 Sep. 2020 McGwire’s shot off the Chicago Cubs’ Steve Trachsel set off a wild celebration in Busch Stadium. The Enquirer, "This date in baseball history: Pete Rose gets 4,191st hit, tying Ty Cobb," 8 Sep. 2020 That report set off a tidal wave of additional news Friday from a variety of sources, some directly contradicting one another. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, "Big Ten dysfunction shows no sign of waning as options for 2020-21 season considered," 29 Aug. 2020 The trouble with the Covid-19 pandemic, though, is that even a few students who break pandemic guidelines could set off a chain of infection that can -- and has -- canceled classes and activities, Schacter said. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The psychology behind why some college students refuse to heed pandemic precautions," 24 Aug. 2020 The office is also monitoring an ongoing investigation by police into allegations that a man set off a pipe bomb at Laurelhurst Park that was directed at protesters about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. oregonlive, "Hundreds of Portland protesters will see their criminal cases dropped as DA announces plan to ‘recognize the right to speak'," 11 Aug. 2020 La Jeunesse said some rioters set off fireworks inches away from the federal officers, several of whom have been forced to seek treatment after sustaining arm and leg burns. Fox News, "Fox News reporter describes what officers face in Portland riots: 'Debris and rocks and frozen bottles'," 30 July 2020 Doctors have already discovered that COVID-19 can set off an overreaction in the immune systems of some patients, leading to serious respiratory complications and death. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Amgen CEO is ‘optimistic’ about COVID-19 clinical trials," 7 July 2020 Floyd’s death last month set off days of protests across the country and criticism that as the county’s top prosecutor, Klobuchar didn’t charge any of the officers involved in citizen deaths. Sara Burnett, Anchorage Daily News, "Klobuchar urges Biden to pick woman of color as his running mate," 19 June 2020

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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Time Traveler for setoff

Time Traveler

The first known use of setoff was circa 1598

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Statistics for setoff

Cite this Entry

“Setoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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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

Legal Definition of set off (Entry 2 of 2)

: to reduce or discharge by set-off : offset

More from Merriam-Webster on setoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for setoff

Nglish: Translation of setoff for Spanish Speakers

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