set·off | \ˈset-ˌȯf \

Definition of setoff 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that is set off against another thing:

a : decoration, ornament

b : compensation, counterbalance

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


Definition of set off (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to put in relief : show up by contrast

b : adorn, embellish

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

The question now is, with summer looming will James set off a fashion trend? Elizabeth Wellington,, "LeBron James showing a little pre-game leg was more masculine than you think | Elizabeth Wellington," 1 June 2018 Charges are pending against a driver who, police said, set off a crash involving a school bus that hospitalized 14 children Monday in Winton Hills, officials said. Jennie Key,, "Driver who passed car setting off bus crash will face charges," 23 Apr. 2018 An 80-year-old Bridgeport man who a sheriff says opened fire at a group of people setting off fireworks in his neighborhood was fatally shot over the weekend by someone in the crowd. Domingo Ramirez Jr., star-telegram, "80-year-old shot at group setting off fireworks, sheriff says. Then he was fatally shot.," 9 July 2018 With the Bengals clinging to a 10-6 advantage early in the fourth quarter, a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown set off a celebration that would re-establish Bengals relevancy in the NFL after a decade-long disappearing act. Paul Dehner Jr.,, "The No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals play of the last 30 years: Peter Warrick's return upends KC," 5 July 2018 Once camel trains set off from here with slaves, pilgrims, salt and gold. The Economist, "On the edge of the Sahara, people mourn the decline of people-smuggling," 5 July 2018 Get written permission to set off fireworks on someone else's property. Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press, "Fireworks tips for 4th of July festivities," 3 July 2018 Behind the scenes, however, Parks’ allegations and request for public records set off alarm bells at City Hall. Stephen Deere, ajc, "Atlanta’s legal bills related to corruption probe top $7.5M, AJC finds," 28 June 2018 Apart from the two fascist tombs, the remains are hidden in eight crypts lining the walls of the nave and two small chapels set off to the sides of the altar. Matías Costa, Smithsonian, "The Battle Over the Memory of the Spanish Civil War," 28 June 2018

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

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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



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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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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