defuse, diffuse
It is surprising how often diffuse (correctly = to disperse) is used for defuse in its figurative meaning ‘to remove tension or potential danger from (a crisis, etc.)’. Examples of this wrong use are:

• An early cut in base rates, which would…diffuse the dispute between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister —Times, 1988

• The Scott report is a time-bomb stealthy politicians and officials are trying to diffuse —Guardian, 1995

• She is coping because she has learned that forgiveness is the only way to diffuse ire and hatred —Birmingham Evening Mail, 2007.

Since this mistake is especially common in newspapers, we might suspect that close writing deadlines are the culprit here.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • defuse — ► VERB 1) remove the fuse from (an explosive device) in order to prevent it from exploding. 2) reduce the danger or tension in (a difficult situation). USAGE The verbs defuse and diffuse have different meanings but are often confused. Defuse… …   English terms dictionary

  • defuse — de*fuse (d[ e]*f[=u]z ), v. t. [Cf. {Diffuse}.] 1. To disorder; to make shapeless. [Obs.] Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. To remove the fuse from; to deactivate (a bomb or other explosive device) or make it ineffective. Syn: deactivate. [WordNet 1.5… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • defuse — 1943, from DE (Cf. de ) + FUSE (Cf. fuse). Related: Defused; defusing …   Etymology dictionary

  • defuse — [v] disarm; smooth over alleviate, cripple, deactivate, demilitarize, diminish, disable, lessen, moderate, mollify, pacify, pad, restrain, soften, soothe, subdue, weaken; concepts 7,22,142,211,320 …   New thesaurus

  • defuse — [dē fyo͞oz′, difyo͞oz′] vt. defused, defusing 1. to remove the fuse or fuze from (a bomb or other explosive device) 2. to render harmless 3. to make less tense, as by diplomacy …   English World dictionary

  • defuse — de|fuse [ˌdi:ˈfju:z] v [T] 1.) to improve a difficult or dangerous situation, for example by making people less angry or by dealing with the causes of a problem defuse a situation/crisis/row etc ▪ Beth s quiet voice helped to defuse the situation …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • defuse — verb (T) 1 to improve a difficult or dangerous situation, for example by making people less angry or by dealing with the causes of a problem: We believe that greater economic stability might defuse the current crisis. | defuse tension/anger/fears …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • defuse — UK [diːˈfjuːz] / US [dɪˈfjuz] verb [transitive] Word forms defuse : present tense I/you/we/they defuse he/she/it defuses present participle defusing past tense defused past participle defused 1) to make a situation more relaxed by making people… …   English dictionary

  • defuse — [[t]di͟ːfju͟ːz[/t]] defuses, defusing, defused 1) VERB If you defuse a dangerous or tense situation, you calm it. [V n] Police administrators credited the organization with helping defuse potentially violent situations... [V n] Officials will… …   English dictionary

  • defuse — transitive verb Date: 1943 1. to remove the fuse from (as a mine or bomb) 2. to make less harmful, potent, or tense < defuse the crisis > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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