re·​fuse | \ ri-ˈfyüz How to pronounce refuse (audio) \
refused; refusing

Definition of refuse

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to express oneself as unwilling to accept refuse a gift refuse a promotion
2a : to show or express unwillingness to do or comply with refused to answer the question
b : to not allow someone to have or do (something) : deny they were refused admittance to the game
3 obsolete : give up, renounce deny thy father and refuse thy name— William Shakespeare
4 of a horse : to decline to jump or leap over

intransitive verb

: to withhold acceptance, compliance, or permission


ref·​use | \ ˈre-ˌfyüs How to pronounce refuse (audio) , -ˌfyüz \

Definition of refuse (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : the worthless or useless part of something : leavings
2 : trash, garbage


ref·​use | \ ˈre-ˌfyüs How to pronounce refuse (audio) , -ˌfyüz \

Definition of refuse (Entry 3 of 3)

: thrown aside or left as worthless

Other Words from refuse


refuser noun

Choose the Right Synonym for refuse


decline, refuse, reject, repudiate, spurn mean to turn away by not accepting, receiving, or considering. decline often implies courteous refusal especially of offers or invitations. declined his party's nomination refuse suggests more positiveness or ungraciousness and often implies the denial of something asked for. refused to lend them the money reject implies a peremptory refusal by sending away or discarding. rejected the manuscript as unpublishable repudiate implies a casting off or disowning as untrue, unauthorized, or unworthy of acceptance. teenagers who repudiate the values of their parents spurn stresses contempt or disdain in rejection or repudiation. spurned his overtures of friendship

Examples of refuse in a Sentence

Verb When they offered me the money, I couldn't refuse. They asked her to help but she refused. Noun refuse had littered the playground until our volunteer group cleaned it up
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Those who refuse to participate in the parallel economy of favors and bribes get passed over for promotion, cut off from benefits, and frozen out of power., 11 May 2022 In January, Macron used a pungent epithet to describe his desire to isolate and inconvenience those who refuse to be vaccinated. Los Angeles Times, 22 Apr. 2022 Under the policy, the agency can without warning issue fines as high as $37,000 per incident to those who refuse to comply with safety measures on a flight. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 That’s right, Kang also wants two specific things to happen if Loki and Sylvie refuse him. Chris Smith, BGR, 18 Apr. 2022 Migrants will be given Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and those who refuse will either be detained or released with more stringent monitoring requirements, the official said. Luke Barr, ABC News, 1 Apr. 2022 But battles of ideas can never be won by those who refuse to fight them in a public forum. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 23 Mar. 2022 But there are those such as Petrivna who refuse to leave. Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2022 The city now plans to test everyone in the city for Covid from early next month, fining those who refuse, according to local media. Shirley Zhao,, 16 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Officers advised him that the refuse company would replace it if necessary. cleveland, 5 May 2022 But still, there are small joys to be snatched in those moments of coming together, a vision of something better amid the refuse. New York Times, 3 May 2022 These can include plastics, fabrics and other refuse. Shanti Lerner, The Arizona Republic, 28 Apr. 2022 Municipal trucks, which make weekly rounds in Los Laureles Canyon, only collect about 2 percent of all the refuse produced in the area, said Fay Crevoshay, communications and policy director for Wildcoast. San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Apr. 2022 But the Russia Pavilion stands empty and rebuked (one curator told me that workers preparing the other pavilions have used it to deposit their refuse). Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 In the past, the city and the Civic Center Authority have done a separate contract with refuse companies. Steve Lord,, 8 Apr. 2022 Encampments littered with refuse exist just blocks from a club that will soon contain crushed-velvet sofas and the festive clink of cocktail glasses and social banter. Fortune, 5 Mar. 2022 As Newsom, dressed in V-neck T-shirt and cargo pants, plucked the refuse, debris from packing peanuts, perfume boxes, individual Sriracha packs and 6-foot-long wooden planks lay scattered across a quarter-mile stretch of rail. Los Angeles Times, 20 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of refuse


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for refuse


Middle English, from Anglo-French refuser, from Vulgar Latin *refusare, perhaps blend of Latin refutare to refute and recusare to demur — more at recuse


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from refuser

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The first known use of refuse was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Refuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for refuse


re·​fuse | \ ri-ˈfyüz How to pronounce refuse (audio) \
refused; refusing

Kids Definition of refuse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to express unwillingness to accept : turn down (something) I refused the job.
2 : to express or show unwillingness to do, give, or allow something They refused to help.


ref·​use | \ ˈre-ˌfyüs How to pronounce refuse (audio) \

Kids Definition of refuse (Entry 2 of 2)

More from Merriam-Webster on refuse

Nglish: Translation of refuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refuse for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about refuse


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