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

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

to decline acceptance, consent, or compliance.

Origin of refuse

1300–50; Middle English refusen < Middle French refuser, Old FrenchLatin refūsus, past participle of refundere to pour back; see refund1
Related formsre·fus·a·ble, adjectivere·fus·er, nounqua·si-re·fused, adjectiveun·re·fus·a·ble, adjectiveun·re·fused, adjectiveun·re·fus·ing, adjective

Synonyms for refuse

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.

Antonyms for refuse




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

Contemporary Examples of refuse

Historical Examples of refuse

  • But the purest and best matrons of Greece refuse to be my guests.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • This request he intended to refuse, and enjoyed in advance the humiliation of young Rushton.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • "Then come and dine here," said Dick, unable to refuse a neighbour hospitality.


    William J. Locke

  • When the news had spread, others came to join him, and he could not refuse.

  • If the refuse matter were taken from that, there would be nothing left.

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

c.1300, from Old French refuser "reject, disregard, avoid" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *refusare, frequentative form from past participle stem of Latin refundere "pour back, give back" (see refund (v.)). Related: Refused; refusing.


mid-14c., "an outcast;" mid-14c., "a rejected thing, waste material, trash," from Old French refus "waste product, rubbish; refusal, denial, rejection," a back-formation from the past participle of refuser (see refuse (v.)). As an adjective from late 14c., "despised, rejected;" early 15c., "of low quality."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper