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 Stone and countless other students have been tragically injured or killed because people in power refuse to protect them. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, 16 June 2022 But three states – New Hampshire, Montana and Wyoming – still refuse to submit them. Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY, 16 June 2022 My family physician and endocrinologist both refuse to acknowledge this. Dr. Keith Roach, oregonlive, 10 June 2022 To that effect, Herrin, designer Vicki Mortimer and lighting designer Paule Constable refuse to create a standard study in nostalgia. David Benedict, Variety, 1 June 2022 Most restaurant managers refuse to approach bad tippers. Adam Reiner, Bon Appétit, 31 May 2022 Many insurance companies refuse to cover new weight loss drugs that their doctors deem medically necessary. New York Times, 31 May 2022 Because Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to salute national flags or engage in military service, their history has been characterized by frequent conflicts with totalitarian states, most famously in Nazi Germany. The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Feb. 2022 Exact data are almost impossible to obtain, in large part because some states refuse to report timely and accurate stats. Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Covered in refuse, empty oxygen bottles, even human remains, the peak now sees hundreds of summit attempts each spring, paid by fees of some $50,000 per client. Michael O’donnell, WSJ, 25 May 2022 The current contract with Republic Services includes weekly refuse, recycling and yard waste (from April to mid-November) pickups, as well as monthly bulk collections. John Benson, cleveland, 6 Apr. 2022 Yard waste bags set out with garbage will be picked up for free — no refuse sticker required — on residents’ regular pickup days the weeks of March 21 and 28. Mike Danahey,, 8 Mar. 2022 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 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

21 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Refuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 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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