set·​up | \ ˈset-ˌəp How to pronounce setup (audio) \

Definition of setup

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : carriage of the body especially : erect and soldierly bearing
2a : the assembly and arrangement of the tools and apparatus required for the performance of an operation
b : the preparation and adjustment of machines for an assigned task
3a : a table setting
b : glass, ice, and mixer served to patrons who supply their own liquor
4a : a camera position from which a scene is filmed also : the footage taken from one camera position
b : the final arrangement of the scenery and properties for a scene of a theatrical or cinematic production
5a : a position of the balls in billiards or pool from which it is easy to score
b : a task or contest purposely made easy
c : something easy to get or accomplish
d : something (such as a plot) that has been constructed or contrived
e : the execution of a planned scoring play in sports
6a : the manner in which the elements or components of a machine, apparatus, or system are arranged, designed, or assembled
b : the patterns within which political, social, or administrative forces operate : customary or established practice
7 : project, plan
8 : something done by deceit or trickery in order to compromise or frame someone

set up

set up; setting up; sets up

Definition of set up (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to raise to and place in a high position
b : to place in view : post
c : to put forward (something, such as a plan) for acceptance
2a : to place upright : erect set up a statue
b : to assemble the parts of and erect in position
c : to put (a machine) in readiness or adjustment for an operation
3a : cause, create set up a clamor
4 : to place in power or in office set up the general as dictator
5a : to raise from depression : elate, gratify
b : to make proud or vain
6a : to put forward or extol as a model
b : to claim oneself to be sets himself up as an authority
8a : to provide with means of making a living set him up in business
b : to bring or restore to normal health
c : to cause (one) to take on a soldierly or athletic appearance especially through drill
9 : to erect (a perpendicular or a figure) on a base in a drawing
10a : to make taut (a stay or hawser)
b : to tighten firmly
11 : to make carefully worked out plans for set up a bank robbery
12a : to pay for (drinks)
b : to treat (someone) to something
13a : to put in a compromising or dangerous position usually by trickery or deceit
14 : to execute one or more plays in preparation for scoring

intransitive verb

1 : to come into active operation or use
2 : to begin business
3 : to make pretensions has never set up to be a wise man— Thomas Rogers
4 : to become firm
set up housekeeping
: to establish one's living quarters
set up shop
: to start a business or activity in a particular place

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Setup vs. Set-Up vs. Set Up

The noun setup is usually styled as a solid compound (that is, as a single word) in American English and as a hyphenated compound (set-up) in British English. The noun may be used attributively (that is, as an adjective) in such phrases as setup man (“someone who makes machine tool adjustments”) and setup tool (“software that facilitates the installation of a computer program”). The verb set up, on the other hand, is usually found as an open compound (two words, no hyphen) in both American and British English.

Examples of setup in a Sentence


Setup of the new software is a breeze. It took me a while to learn the setup of the office's filing system. We had a great setup. On my days off, my wife would work from home while I took care of the kids. The software makes it easy to create custom setups.


set up tables in the living room for the party set up a scholarship fund for deserving students from the inner city
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That sounds like the setup for a joke when considering the best-selling author, New Yorker writer and podcast host, whose name has become synonymous for rational, at times contrarian, examinations of conventional wisdom. Chris Barton,, "‘Talking to Strangers’: Malcolm Gladwell investigates the dangers of misunderstanding, from Sandra Bland to Bernie Madoff," 11 Sep. 2019 That sounds like the setup for a joke when considering the bestselling author, New Yorker writer and podcast host, whose name has become synonymous with rational, at times contrarian, examinations of conventional wisdom. Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times, "Review: What do Bernie Madoff and Sylvia Plath have in common? Malcolm Gladwell explains," 7 Sep. 2019 The laundry setup is in the unfinished fieldstone basement. Real Estate, "Home of the Week: The flooring in this 3-bedroom Cape is school chalkboards," 7 Sep. 2019 But the setup refuses to deliver, grammatically, and the novel hangs, like the narrator herself, in a fug of unresolved tension. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Can One Sentence Capture All of Life?," 6 Sep. 2019 There were 63 competitors who competed in a series of races with a three-mile short course and a five-mile long course setup. Emmett Hall,, "Sunshine Standup Paddle Series crowns champions," 5 Sep. 2019 Then a brief shot of Leia before the setup to what may well be an enormous space battle. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Disney releases new footage from The Rise of Skywalker," 26 Aug. 2019 Under the existing setup, the standard EB-5 investment level is $1 million. Tom Benning, Dallas News, "Trump takes aim at 'golden visa' program that's pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into Texas," 24 Aug. 2019 The setup for this extended fire season was exacerbated by unusually warm temperatures early in the summer. Anchorage Daily News, "In Alaska, a summer of extreme weather continues," 23 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The special teams allowed a long kick return that set up Oakland's last score. Josh Dubow,, "Broncos come up short in former Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s debut," 10 Sep. 2019 The deal, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, was set up in 2016 as a way for the two nations to keep a closer eye on North Korea and China. Brian Bennett, Time, "The Downsides to President Trump's 'Dare Me' Doctrine," 10 Sep. 2019 In another of Bendet’s dreamscapes — a powder blue stage — a bakery display case was set up with matching candy, macaroons and pastries. Washington Post, "Stacey Bendet creates a ‘field of dreams’ at NY fashion week," 10 Sep. 2019 Gaskin had seven tackles, including his two sacks, and one interception and set up DP’s first score. Lynn Ramsey,, "Dr. Phillips uses tough 'D' to edge West Orange," 9 Sep. 2019 Fresno State scored 18 unanswered points to take a 14-3 deficit to a 21-14 lead, with Morgan fumble setting up the Bulldogs’ score and two-point conversion. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "Antoine Winfield deja vu: This time, Gophers top Fresno State 38-35 in 2 OT thriller," 8 Sep. 2019 The one-play drive was set up when Issac Abeo sacked Sam Brown to force a fumble that Vincent Versteg recovered. Indystar Staff Reports, Indianapolis Star, "State college football roundup: Butler tops Indiana Wesleyan in OT," 8 Sep. 2019 Had four catches for 84 yards and a TD and set up a score with a diving catch to the 2 for 39-yard gain. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Week 3 Arizona high school football top performers," 7 Sep. 2019 Benicia 1-0 25 Ruth’s fumble in the red zone, however, set up a potential game-winning score. Mitch Stephens,, "Resilient Riordan begins renewal with emotional opening victory," 2 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'setup.' 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 setup


1890, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for setup

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for setup

The first known use of setup was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for setup



English Language Learners Definition of setup

: the process of making something (such as a machine or computer program) ready to be used
: the way that something is done or organized
informal : a situation in which someone is deliberately put in a bad position or made to look guilty

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More from Merriam-Webster on setup

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with setup

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for setup

Spanish Central: Translation of setup

Nglish: Translation of setup for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of setup for Arabic Speakers

Comments on setup

What made you want to look up setup? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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