Commonly Confused Words: Defuse vs. Diffuse

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What does each word mean?

If you defuse a situation, you make it less tense or dangerous. The word is also used to describe the act of removing the triggering device from an explosive.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is defuse used in some example sentences:

  • He told a joke to defuse the tension.
  • Specialists were called in to defuse the bomb.

Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list including the word defuse.

If you diffuse something, you spread it over a wide area or between a large number of people.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is diffuse used in some example sentences:

  • The use of new technology has diffused rapidly through the organisation.
  • As there is a greater concentration of carbon dioxide outside the cell than there is inside, carbon dioxide diffuses into the cell

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word diffuse.

Where does each word come from?

Defuse has been used in English since 1943 and made up from the Latin de- and fuse meaning ‘to melt, make liquid by heat’. The prefix de- functions to undo or reverse a verb’s action.

Diffuse comes from the Latin diffundere meaning ‘scatter, pour out or away’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • The bomb definitely needs to be defused.
  • Think of the letter f as being diffused across the word to help you remember to spell it with two fs.
  • I like Science, but diffusion was a difficult topic.

What words do you constantly mix up? Let us know and we’ll cover them in our Commonly Confused Words series.

Have a great week!

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries.


31 Aug 2016
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