set·​up | \ ˈset-ˌəp \

Definition of setup

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : carriage of the body especially : erect and soldierly bearing
2a : the assembly and arrangement of the tools and apparatus required for the performance of an operation
b : the preparation and adjustment of machines for an assigned task
3a : a table setting
b : glass, ice, and mixer served to patrons who supply their own liquor
4a : a camera position from which a scene is filmed also : the footage taken from one camera position
b : the final arrangement of the scenery and properties for a scene of a theatrical or cinematic production
5a : a position of the balls in billiards or pool from which it is easy to score
b : a task or contest purposely made easy
c : something easy to get or accomplish
d : something (such as a plot) that has been constructed or contrived
e : the execution of a planned scoring play in sports
6a : the manner in which the elements or components of a machine, apparatus, or system are arranged, designed, or assembled
b : the patterns within which political, social, or administrative forces operate : customary or established practice
7 : project, plan
8 : something done by deceit or trickery in order to compromise or frame someone

set up


Definition of set up (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to raise to and place in a high position
b : to place in view : post
c : to put forward (something, such as a plan) for acceptance
2a : to place upright : erect set up a statue
b : to assemble the parts of and erect in position
c : to put (a machine) in readiness or adjustment for an operation
3a : cause, create set up a clamor
4 : to place in power or in office set up the general as dictator
5a : to raise from depression : elate, gratify
b : to make proud or vain
6a : to put forward or extol as a model
b : to claim oneself to be sets himself up as an authority
8a : to provide with means of making a living set him up in business
b : to bring or restore to normal health
c : to cause (one) to take on a soldierly or athletic appearance especially through drill
9 : to erect (a perpendicular or a figure) on a base in a drawing
10a : to make taut (a stay or hawser)
b : to tighten firmly
11 : to make carefully worked out plans for set up a bank robbery
12a : to pay for (drinks)
b : to treat (someone) to something
13a : to put in a compromising or dangerous position usually by trickery or deceit
14 : to execute one or more plays in preparation for scoring

intransitive verb

1 : to come into active operation or use
2 : to begin business
3 : to make pretensions has never set up to be a wise man— Thomas Rogers
4 : to become firm
set up housekeeping
: to establish one's living quarters
set up shop
: to start a business or activity in a particular place

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Setup vs. Set-Up vs. Set Up

The noun setup is usually styled as a solid compound (that is, as a single word) in American English and as a hyphenated compound (set-up) in British English. The noun may be used attributively (that is, as an adjective) in such phrases as setup man (“someone who makes machine tool adjustments”) and setup tool (“software that facilitates the installation of a computer program”). The verb set up, on the other hand, is usually found as an open compound (two words, no hyphen) in both American and British English.

Examples of setup in a Sentence


Setup of the new software is a breeze. It took me a while to learn the setup of the office's filing system. We had a great setup. On my days off, my wife would work from home while I took care of the kids. The software makes it easy to create custom setups.


set up tables in the living room for the party set up a scholarship fund for deserving students from the inner city
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Zelalem was born in Germany and began his youth career playing for a number of German sides before joining Arsenal's youth setup in 2014., "Arsenal Youngster Gedion Zelalem Returns to Training After 13-Month Injury Layoff," 5 July 2018 PMI Science, which is an arm of tobacco company Philip Morris International, has a sleek setup on the beach. Claire Atkinson, NBC News, "Apple scores at Cannes Lions ad competition," 21 June 2018 The cups are recyclable but only come in a K-cup option, which will irk many of us who don’t have the proper setup. Ac Shilton, Outside Online, "Coffees That Deliver on Twice the Caffeine," 25 May 2018 Like it or not, that’s the typical setup in a heterosexual household. Valentina Zarya, Fortune, "Meghan Markle, Women.NYC, Pennsylvania Primaries: Broadsheet May 17," 17 May 2018 The store was a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with a charcoal grill at the back and a rickety table and chairs in front, a typical setup in Syria, so that the owner can grill meat to order for customers who want to have a quick bite. Anissa Helou, Bon Appetit, "The Camel Trek: In Search of an Unexpected Delicacy," 4 May 2018 Loyola will have its own crew working the game on truTV and both Kansas and Villanova will have the same setup for the second game. Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan in Final Four: Jay Feely, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on TNT 'TeamCast'," 30 Mar. 2018 Tesla excels on its interior and technology, and the single large tablet touch screen in the Model S and Model X is far better than the two-screen setup in the I-Pace, which appears similar to the one in the Range Rover Velar. Robert Duffer,, "Jaguar I-Pace undercuts and outperforms Tesla Model X," 7 Mar. 2018 The setup would be similar to the Department of the Navy, which controls both the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "'Space Force' May Be Hobbled Before Liftoff," 29 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Photo: iStock Three simple ways to boost annual percentage yield, or your APY, are to set up savings accounts at local banks; use online savings accounts; and invest in money-market mutual funds. Kevin Mcallister, WSJ, "How to Squeeze Higher Returns From Your Savings," 10 Feb. 2019 France, Britain and Germany, defying threats from Washington, are this week executing their plans to set up a special-payments company to secure some trade with Iran and blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions. Benoit Faucon, WSJ, "Europe Opens Channel for Trade With Iran," 29 Jan. 2019 From there you’ll be able to set up your account and order your SIM kit. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Verizon's $40 unlimited Visible service on Android FAQ: What is it and how to switch," 24 Jan. 2019 The hijackers used their access to set up a rogue domain resolver that redirected traffic destined to Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "How 3ve’s BGP hijackers eluded the Internet—and made $29M," 21 Dec. 2018 Captive State answers the question by setting up a world already a decade deep into its otherworldly occupation. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "The 2019 Sci-Fi Film Guide," 3 Jan. 2019 The touchscreen gives you access to a basic OS for things like setting up Wi-Fi, viewing data limits, and reading messages. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "AT&T 5G goes live this week with ridiculously overpowered hotspot," 20 Dec. 2018 Take your gathering to the next level: Keep your guests as energized as their pups by setting up a snack and coffee station. Shelby Deering, Country Living, "5 Party Ideas That Give Back to Your Community," 1 Nov. 2018 Instead of setting up a bench and hanging hooks on the wall, buy a unit that contains everything in one. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "10 Mudrooms That Are Actually The Opposite Of Embarrassing," 25 Oct. 2018

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


1890, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Learn More about setup

Statistics for setup

Last Updated

16 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for setup

The first known use of setup was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for setup



English Language Learners Definition of setup

: the process of making something (such as a machine or computer program) ready to be used
: the way that something is done or organized
informal : a situation in which someone is deliberately put in a bad position or made to look guilty

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More from Merriam-Webster on setup

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with setup

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for setup

Spanish Central: Translation of setup

Nglish: Translation of setup for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of setup for Arabic Speakers

Comments on setup

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


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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