English: homonyms: defuse and diffuse

Tutoring English, homonyms have been a favourite topic of mine since second grade. The tutor mentions defuse and diffuse.

defuse:to remove the ignition device of a bomb. More generally, to quell tension by dulling the meaning, or the context, of a remark.

diffuse: to spontaneously separate by movement in many directions: a crowd will diffuse as it exits from a football stadium.

Defuse and diffuse aren’t pronounced exactly the same, but close enough: lazy pronunciation of defuse can make it sound like diffuse.

Interestingly, the two words’ meanings, practically, can be very similar. No doubt response personnel would perceive the break-up and exodus of an angry crowd very similarly to the defusing of a bomb.


Mish, Frederick C. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2004.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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