verb (used with object), re·fused, re·fus·ing.

verb (used without object), re·fused, re·fus·ing.

to decline acceptance, consent, or compliance.

Nearby words

  1. refundable,
  2. refurb,
  3. refurbish,
  4. refurbishment,
  5. refusal,
  6. refusenik,
  7. refusion,
  8. refutation,
  9. refutative,
  10. refute

Origin of refuse

1300–50; Middle English refusen < Middle French refuser, Old FrenchLatin refūsus, past participle of refundere to pour back; see refund1

1. rebuff. Refuse, decline, reject, spurn all imply nonacceptance of something. To decline is milder and more courteous than to refuse, which is direct and often emphatic in expressing determination not to accept what is offered or proposed: to refuse a bribe; to decline an invitation. To reject is even more positive and definite than refuse : to reject a suitor. To spurn is to reject with scorn: to spurn a bribe.

Related forms




something that is discarded as worthless or useless; rubbish; trash; garbage.


rejected as worthless; discarded: refuse matter.

Origin of refuse

1325–75; Middle English < Middle French; Old French refus denial, rejection, derivative of refuser to refuse1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for refuse

British Dictionary definitions for refuse




(tr) to decline to accept (something offered)to refuse a present; to refuse promotion
to decline to give or grant (something) to (a person, organization, etc)
(when tr, takes an infinitive) to express determination not (to do something); declinehe refuses to talk about it
(of a horse) to be unwilling to take (a jump), as by swerving or stopping
(tr) (of a woman) to declare one's unwillingness to accept (a suitor) as a husband
Derived Formsrefusable, adjectiverefuser, noun

Word Origin for refuse

C14: from Old French refuser, from Latin refundere to pour back; see refund


  1. anything thrown away; waste; rubbish
  2. (as modifier)a refuse collection

Word Origin for refuse

C15: from Old French refuser to refuse 1

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 refuse
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper