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Amuse vs. Bemuse

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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You may be confused by the words amused and bemused. They sound so much the same but mean something completely different. This could bemuse some and amuse others. Don’t let it befuddle you because it’s really quite funny. Worry no more we’ll amuse you all as we explain the difference so you won’t be bemused.

Consider the sentences below:

I was amused by his antics.

You look bemused; should I repeat the question?

Is it still confusing? Keep reading.


Amuse originated in late 15th century (in the sense ‘delude, deceive’): from Old French amuser ‘entertain, deceive’, from a- (expressing causal effect) + muser ‘stare stupidly’. Current senses date from the mid 17th century.

Amuse as verb:

Amuse is used as a verb in English language where it means to cause (someone) to find something funny.

He made faces to amuse her.

To provide interesting and enjoyable occupation for (someone); entertain is also called amuse.

They amused themselves digging through an old encyclopedia.

Bemuse as verb:

Bemuse is also used as a verb in English language and it means to puzzle, confuse, or bewilder.

Amuse vs. Bemuse

Her bemused expression gave her away.

It has synonyms like bewildered, confused, puzzled, perplexed, baffled, stumped and mystified etc.


The technology-driven world in which we live today would bemuse even our most recent ancestors. [Wesleyan Argus]

West Brom manager Roberto di Matteo said he was bemused by the referee’s decision not to award his side a penalty. [BBC Sport]

David Platt was left scratching his head in bemusement on Saturday after another Irish Cup farce. [Coleraine Today]

Or is he the avatar of a bemusing guerrilla ad campaign for products unknown? [New York Times]

“Draco was on the upper landing, pleading with another masked Death Eater. Harry stunned the Death Eater as they passed: Malfoy looked around, beaming, for his savior, and Ron punched him from under the cloak. Malfoy fell backward on top of the Death Eater, his mouth bleeding, utterly bemused.” [J.K. Rowling in the novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows]

"Patrick Kenzie asking a bemused waitress for a newspaper in small-town USA.’It’s like a homepage without a scroll button?" [Dennis Lehane (Moonlight Mile)]

Amuse or bemuse:

Amuse is something that is amusing is entertaining or funny. Bemused means "confused, bewildered, or baffled" and has nothing to do with amusement or humor or anything funny at all. The eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope first used the word to describe someone who was muddled by liquor or had found a muse in beer. Think of bemused as similar to befuddled and use it to describe only someone who is confused. Avoid bemused in situations where the context is ambiguous enough to leave the reader wondering whether you mean "amused" or “confused."

We hope this article was not bemusing.


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1 Comment
  • Jeff
    You write in this article that the word bemused "has nothing to do with amusement or humor or anything funny at all."  This is not true.  This article is about the meanings of just two words, and you missed an important shade of meaning of one of the words!  While the "confused" meaning of bemused is certainly legitimate, there is another meaning of this word that refers to a particular type of amusement that is wry or detached.  I refer you to definitions listed for bemused at two leading online dictionaries, which I included below. “mildly amused, especially in a detached way” 

    Merriam-Webster: "having or showing feelings of wry amusement especially from something that is surprising or perplexing"

    Merriam-Webster includes an illustrative quote for this meaning:

    “This is not another of those now popular books about a bemused outsider's sojourn in rural France, brimming with colorful locals and heart-warming anecdotes.”

    — J. D. McClatchy
    LikeReply3 years ago


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