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

He is accused of walking into the Walmart near a shopping mall Saturday morning and opening fire, setting off panic as hundreds of customers and employees fled, police said. Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, "'One of the lowest points in American history': El Paso struggles to recover from mass shooting," 5 Aug. 2019 DC Partners upcoming condominium project is set off Allen Parkway. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Condo Life: Behind the scenes with DC Partners," 4 Aug. 2019 That was when Russia seized Crimea and, in Ukraine’s east, set off separatist fighting that continues today. The Economist, "How the Baltic states spot the Kremlin’s agents," 1 Aug. 2019 Jespersen and Ueland arrived in Imlil by taxi, according to local sources, and soon set off for the hike to the summit. Rachel Monroe, Outside Online, "Last winter, Moroccan officials found two hikers dead on the trail to the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. The international investigation that followed revealed the fragility of the adventure travel economy, as well as what happens when a small tourist hub is suddenly made strange by violence.," 29 July 2019 On Sunday afternoon, thousands of protesters dressed mostly in black T-shirts set off on a peaceful march from Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay area of Hong Kong’s main island. Mike Ives,, "Police fire tear gas and rubber bullets in Hong Kong as protesters target Chinese office," 21 July 2019 Then the crowd — the schoolteachers and the union leaders, the lifelong political activists and the first-timers, the students and their parents — set off on foot to the governor’s mansion, where more protesters awaited. Patricia Mazzei, New York Times, "Puerto Ricans in Protests Say They’ve Had Enough," 18 July 2019 The fault last ruptured around 1,100 years ago, thrusting coastlines on Bainbridge Island and West Seattle more than 20 feet into the air, triggering a tsunami in Puget Sound and setting off massive landslides on Mercer Island. Sandi Doughton, The Seattle Times, "Friday earthquakes on a crustal fault show it’s not only the ‘Big One’ we should fear," 13 July 2019 On July 29, 1776, at the viceroy’s behest, 10 men, none of them soldiers or merchants, set off on horseback. Bruce Berger, WSJ, "‘Escalante’s Dream’ Review: Long Road Through the West," 12 July 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

Statistics for setoff

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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

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a period when something is suspended

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