[ set-awf, -of ]
/ ˈsɛtˌɔf, -ˌɒf /
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something that counterbalances or makes up for something else, as compensation for a loss.
Accounting. a counterbalancing debt or claim, especially one that cancels an amount a debtor owes.
Also called offset. Architecture.
  1. a reduction in the thickness of a wall.
  2. a flat or sloping projection on a wall, buttress, or the like, below a thinner part.
something used to enhance the effect of another thing by contrasting it, as an ornament.
Printing. offset (def. 7).



In effect, this quiz will prove whether or not you have the skills to know the difference between “affect” and “effect.”
Question 1 of 7
The rainy weather could not ________ my elated spirits on my graduation day.

Origin of setoff

First recorded in 1615–25; noun use of verb phrase set off
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for setoff (1 of 2)

set off

verb (adverb)

noun setoff

British Dictionary definitions for setoff (2 of 2)



printing a fault in which ink is transferred from a heavily inked or undried printed sheet to the sheet next to it in a pileAlso called (esp Brit): offset
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

Idioms and Phrases with setoff

set off


Give rise to, cause to occur, as in The acid set off a chemical reaction. [Early 1600s]


Cause to explode, as in They set off a bomb. [Late 1800s]


Distinguish, show to be different, contrast with, as in That black coat sets him off from the others in the picture, or Italics set this sentence off from the rest of the text. [Late 1500s]


Enhance, make more attractive, as in That color sets off her blonde hair. [Early 1600s]


Begin a journey, leave, as in When do you set off for Europe? [Second half of 1700s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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