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

The new melee-for-boost options played into the original game's accordion-like sense of momentum, always pulling me in for close kills before pushing me away to set off rockets. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "DOOM Eternal gameplay world premiere: Devil horns in the air—literally," 9 June 2019 Before the army departed for King's Landing, the Hound got a head start, setting off towards the capital by his lonesome for one last duel with the Mountain. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Will the Cleganebowl Be Sparked by Arya Dying on 'Game of Thrones'?," 6 May 2019 And that’s exactly the kind of car that’s going to set off a mass movement to electric vehicles. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The 2019 Popular Mechanics Automotive Excellence Awards," 16 Apr. 2019 According to the Tribune, Jason Roche, 41, allegedly confronted 19-year-old Devonte Ortiz and asked him to stop setting off fireworks outside his apartment complex in Austin, Texas. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "A Man Allegedly Shot and Killed a Teen for Setting Off Fireworks on July 4th," 8 July 2018 With royal fans on high alert for news of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's baby, every notification from their official Instagram account, @SussexRoyal, sets off a rush of adrenaline. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Here’s Why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Just Unfollowed All the Royals on Instagram," 1 May 2019 Her case has set off a diplomatic furor among the three countries and complicated high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks. Christopher Bodeen, The Seattle Times, "China says no information on detained ex-Canadian diplomat," 12 Dec. 2018 For some reason, unlike making casual purchases from a British brand, buying things off of Taobao could set off alarm bells ringing for your bank. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "The best deals from Alibaba’s Singles Day," 10 Nov. 2018 The escalation in aerial bombing and shelling of the rebel areas in Idlib and northern Hama have set off alarm bells. Fox News, "The Latest: UN says 30k displaced by Syria Idlib attacks," 13 Sep. 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

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

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showing courage and determination

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