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 Fortunately, there was a heroically independent great aunt who paid, secretly, for the private lessons in mathematics that enabled Henri to win a school prize and set off for Paris to study. Tim Parks, The New York Review of Books, "The Novels of Tension Between Freedom and Disaster," 10 July 2020 Lewis said the growing global skepticism towards Big Tech, set off by data security scandals and disinformation campaigns, contributes to government suspicions of TikTok. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, "How TikTok became a geopolitical flashpoint," 10 July 2020 Pristine whitewashed buildings juxtaposed against wood and stone create a minimalist aesthetic — all the more striking when set off against the sweeping sunset views. Tanvi Chheda, Travel + Leisure, "The Top 10 Greece Resort Hotels," 8 July 2020 The reconsideration has escalated tensions with Turkey’s rival, Greece, and set off a chorus of dismay from political and religious leaders as diverse as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church. Carlotta Gall,, "Erdogan talks of making Hagia Sophia a mosque again, to international dismay," 8 July 2020 Race has been at the center of the national conversation for the past several weeks after the death of George Floyd set off a series of protests. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, "Two white people who painted over Black Lives Matter mural charged with hate crime," 7 July 2020 The fatal shooting comes amid nationwide protests against police violence, and bystander video of the incident set off further protests in Phoenix on Sunday night outside a police station. Konstantin Toropin, CNN, "Phoenix police shot and killed a man in a parked car, sparking renewed protests," 6 July 2020 Fire officials are bracing for what could be another dangerous summer due to the dry conditions and unusually high number of fireworks being set off over the last several weeks. Josh Koehn,, "Crews Fire near Gilroy consumes 2,000 acres, evacuations remain in place," 6 July 2020 Members of the all-male far-right organization, which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, arrived as a contingent of Black Lives Matter protesters set off on a march from the Capitol. Emily Davies, Washington Post, "In an era of racial unrest, Americans converging in D.C. to celebrate the Fourth of July question the meaning of freedom," 5 July 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 4 Aug. 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on setoff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for setoff

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with setoff

Nglish: Translation of setoff for Spanish Speakers

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