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

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 Buses carrying migrants from Texas to New York at the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has set off a firestorm of condemnation from Democratic leaders. Emma Colton, Fox News, 11 Aug. 2022 The security concerns and complexities of the agreements have set off a slow, cautious start. Arkansas Online, 30 July 2022 The security concerns and complexities of the agreements have set off a slow, cautious start, with no grains having yet left Ukrainian ports. Inna Varenytsia, Chicago Tribune, 29 July 2022 The devastation has also set off an outcry from residents over the lack of government preparedness to deal with urban flooding. New York Times, 24 July 2022 The brutal rout has clearly set off alarm bells at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Mimansa Verma, Quartz, 15 July 2022 His ouster has set off a full leadership struggle after decades of rule by his family dynasty, which until recently also held the positions of prime minister and finance minister. Harold Maass, The Week, 15 July 2022 Each claim of quantum advantage has set off other researchers to develop faster classical algorithms to challenge that claim. Sophia Chen, Wired, 11 July 2022 Recently, Burry’s tweets have set off alarms for some investors as the hedge fund manager has warned that stocks could be only halfway to their bottom and that the good times could be ending for white collar workers. Fortune, 6 July 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near setoff

set off


set-off man

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Cite this Entry

“Setoff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on setoff

Nglish: Translation of setoff for Spanish Speakers


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