Grammar 101: Defuse vs. diffuse

by IELTS Australasia — April 6th, 2018

Defuse vs. diffuse: Two words that can cause some confusion. It’s well worth to spend a few minutes to know the difference between the two.

We often learn phrases by ear before we learn to write them. So, it’s very common for someone to use the incorrect word as many words sound the same but are spelt differently and differ in meaning. In this topic, let’s look at “Defuse” and “Diffuse”, two words that are often misused – even by native English speakers. Now, how to tell the difference between them?

  • Difference defuse and diffuse
  • Synonyms of defuse and diffuse
  • Use defuse and diffuse in a sentence

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Click each topic to learn more about the differences between its and it’s.

Defuse vs. diffuse: the difference
Defuse

Is a verb: A word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience.

Diffuse

Can be a verb (a word or phrase that describes an action, condition, or experience) or an adjective (a word that describes a person, place, thing, event, substance or quality).

Defuse vs. diffuse: the definitions
Defuse
  • To prevent a bomb from exploding.
  • To make a difficult or dangerous situation calmer by reducing or removing its cause.
Illicit
  • As a verb
    • To (cause something to) spread in many directions.
    • To (cause a gas or liquid to) spread through or into a surrounding substance by mixing with it.
  • As an adjective
    • Spread out and not directed in one place.
    • Disapproving – not clear or easy to understand.
Defuse vs. diffuse: the synonyms
Defuse

Could also mean (synonyms): Deactivate, cripple, lessen, moderate, pacify, soften, restrain, weaken, alleviate.

Diffuse

Synonyms for this word as a verb include: Broadcast, circulated, diluted, dispersed, expanded, extended, separated, strewn, radiated. As an adjective: Wordy, longwinded, rambling, verbose, talkative.

Defuse vs. diffuse: in a sentence
Defuse
  • He managed to defuse the bomb in the nick of time.
  • Chris defused the tense situation by cracking a joke.
  • My teacher acted fast to successfully defuse the situation in class.
  • The police were called in to defuse threats of a violent riot.
Diffuse
  • In his photography class, Robert learnt how to use a screen to diffuse light.
  • The gas from the factory diffused throughout the park.
  • I am loving the heat that is diffusing from the radiator on this cold winter day.
  • The loud bang diffused the crowd at the entrance.

Reference: Cambridge Dictionary

Want to learn more about commonly confused words?

In written English, it is important to know the correct spelling of a word you want to use. For example, you don’t want to write “weak” when you mean “week” even though they sound the same. In spoken English, spelling is less important, but pronunciation is. Think about the word “lead” which can be pronounced as “led” or “leed.” Because these words cause a lot of confusion, it’s well worth to spend a few minutes to know the difference: homophones vs homographs vs homonyms. Read more here.

People often use elude when they mean allude, or write allude when they should really write elude. There are other commonly confused words too: Do you know the difference between belief or believe? That is the question of another article where we explain the difference between these two commonly misused words. Read it here.

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