Grammar 101: Defuse vs. diffuse

by IELTS Australasia — April 6th, 2018

Defuse vs. diffuse: Two words that can cause some confusion and 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.

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

Defuse vs. diffuse: the difference

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


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
  • To prevent a bomb from exploding.
  • To make a difficult or dangerous situation calmer by reducing or removing its cause.
  • 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

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


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
  • 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.
  • He is nervous as this will be his first time defusing a bomb.
  • The police were called in to defuse threats of a violent riot.
  • 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.
  • Sally was well known for her diffuse literary style.

Reference: Cambridge Dictionary