'Defuse' vs 'Diffuse': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on July 21, 2023

Are you looking for the difference between 'defuse' vs. 'diffuse?'

Here it is: 

  • 'Defuse' is a verb that means to remove or disarm a fuse. 
  • 'Diffuse' is an adjective and a verb that means poorly organized or able to pour out freely. 

While 'defuse' and 'diffuse' sound similar, they have different meanings, so it is important to understand these terms. Otherwise, you risk using the wrong word.

So, to learn all of the meanings and uses of these words, read this entire post. It contains a detailed explanation of the difference between the terms, as well as definitions, synonyms, pronunciations, and examples of both.

So, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Defuse' vs. 'Diffuse?'

These two words confuse some writers because they are similar. However, the spellings, meanings, uses, and pronunciations are slightly different.

  • 'Defuse' is a verb that means to remove the fuse or danger from something. It can also mean to work to calm a situation rather than fan the flames.
  • On the other hand, 'diffuse' is an adjective that means to be unorganized or lacking localization and concentration. It is also a verb that means to pour or allow to spread without restriction.

How to Use 'Defuse' vs. 'Diffuse'

You just learned that 'defuse' and 'diffuse' are both verbs and that you can also use the latter as an adjective. But let's take a closer look at the various usages for these terms.

  • Use 'defuse' literally to reference the deactivation of a fuse.

For example, you might say:

Bomb technicians go through rigorous training to learn how to defuse bombs safely. 

  • Use 'defuse' figuratively to speak about calming a tense situation.

For example, I might say:

I am trying to defuse the situation before our trip, but after the ugly things that have been said, it will likely take time for their emotions to calm. 

  • Use 'diffuse' to refer to the disbursement of information.

For example, you could say:

When you diffuse information to the public, you should be mindful of what you share.

  • Use 'diffuse' when discussing a fragrance liquid jar with reeds that help spread the scent.

As an example, I might say:

Using reeds to diffuse fragrances in your home is a good alternative to plugin air fresheners and sprays.

Definition of 'Defuse': What Does 'Defuse' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'defuse' is a verb defined as:

  • To remove the fuse from a bomb or incendiary device

It can also mean:

  • To make something less potent, harmful, or dangerous
  • To reduce the potential danger in a situation
  • To calm things down

Synonyms of 'Defuse'

According to the same resource, there are no synonyms for 'defuse.'

Definition of 'Diffuse': What Does 'Diffuse' Mean?

The source defines 'diffuse' as an adjective that means:

  • Being unorganized and wordy

It can also mean:

  • Not localized, focused, or concentrated

'Diffuse' can also be a verb that means:

  • Pour out or cause to spread without restriction
  • Scatter or spread
  • Spread in a wasteful manner
  • To break up light
  • To spread by contact
  • To experience diffusion

Synonyms of 'Diffuse'

  • Rambling
  • Babbling
  • Communicative
  • Exaggerated
  • Talkative
  • Redundant
  • Disperse
  • Dispel
  • Dissipate
  • Radiate
  • Spit
  • Spill
  • Pour
  • Fan
  • Flow

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Defuse' vs. 'Diffuse'

Now, let's learn the difference in how you pronounce 'defuse' vs. 'diffuse.' These terms have similar sounds, but there is a slight difference. Learning the correct pronunciation will help you remember the correct spelling and meaning of both.

So, here is a convenient pronunciation guide you can follow. 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to learn how to pronounce 'defuse':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'diffuse' correctly:


Sample Sentences Using 'Defuse' vs. 'Diffuse'

Here are some examples of 'defuse' and 'diffuse' in sentences. Read them to see the terms used in different ways and to help you remember their meanings.


  • The team of professionals worked together to defuse the bomb.
  • It is best to try to defuse the situation rather than fuel the fire.
  • Revenge is sweet, but it is often more productive to defuse a situation.
  • Hostage negotiators know how to defuse a situation, and bomb technicians know how to defuse bombs.
  • One of the best ways to defuse an angry customer is to practice active listening and express sympathy for what they are going through.
  • We instruct all of our customer service representatives to defuse and diagnose customer concerns before passing them to another team member.


  • What fragrance do you diffuse in your home?
  • As details emerge, I need you to diffuse the information to the rest of the student body.
  • You can diffuse perfume with the bottle it comes in or use a fancy perfume diffuser.
  • Lamp shades help to diffuse light. The light has a different effect on the space depending on the type, material, and color of your shade.
  • If you diffuse essential oils, you need to replace the oil and reeds every week or so.
  • We are waiting for hazmat crews to arrive on the scene. That crazy man diffused chemicals throughout the building.


  • After the bomb techs defuse the bomb, we will need to work diligently to diffuse the information to the public.
  • You don't defuse tensions when you diffuse information without verifying it.
  • The situation between the two girls was already tense. Then, Amy accidentally diffused perfume into Janet's eye, which did not help to defuse Janet's temper.

Recap: The Difference Between 'Defuse' vs. 'Diffuse'

Finally, let's review what you learned about the difference between 'defuse' vs. 'diffuse':

  • 'Defuse' is a verb for removing the fuse or deactivating something.
  • 'Diffuse' is an adjective or a verb that means to spread or scatter. 

The difference between these terms challenges experienced writers and English language learners. So, do not feel bad if you have to come back to this lesson for a review in the future.

You can also use the confusing words section here to learn about hundreds of other commonly misused terms. Each guide contains a quick answer and a detailed explanation with definitions, pronunciations, usage tips, and examples.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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