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bemuse

[bih-myooz]
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verb (used with object), be·mused, be·mus·ing.
  1. to bewilder or confuse.
  2. to preoccupy; engross.
  3. to cause to be mildly amused, especially in a detached way: Apparently bemused by his critics, he floated above the clamor surrounding the campaign.
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Origin of bemuse

First recorded in 1695–1705; be- + muse
Related formsbe·muse·ment, noun

Usage note

The verb bemuse (usually as the adjective bemused ) is similar in sound to amuse , and has in fact taken on the meaning "to cause to be mildly amused." Many usage experts and traditionalists consider this a misuse of bemuse , pointing out that its proper meaning is “to bewilder or confuse.” However, the history and use of bemuse has shown that its meaning is often ambiguous. It's often the case that one's feelings are a combination of bewilderment and amusement: Their customs bemuse most Americans. Even when it clearly means "to bewilder or confuse," bemuse usually retains a lighthearted tone: one would not typically say: I was bemused by his motive for the murder.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bemuse

Historical Examples

  • Hunger does not necessarily help the understanding; it may bemuse it by passion and resentment.

    The Fruits of Victory

    Norman Angell

  • Most of these were of the opiate class, light magazines and light stories intended to bemuse and not to educate the mind.

    G. H. Q.

    Frank Fox

  • I asked, determined not to allow her to bemuse or escape me with her metaphysical talk and illustrations.

    She and Allan

    H. Rider Haggard


British Dictionary definitions for bemuse

bemuse

verb
  1. (tr) to confuse; bewilder
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Derived Formsbemusement, nounbemusing, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bemuse

v.

"to make utterly confused," from be- + muse (cf. amuse); attested from 1735 but probably older, as Pope (1705) punned on it as "devoted utterly to the Muses."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper