Amuse vs. bemuse

Something that is amusing is entertaining or funny. Bemusing has an almost opposite meaning. Bemuse means (1) to cause to be bewildered or to confuse, and (2) to cause to be engrossed in thought. Neither of these effects are funny or entertaining.


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]

2 thoughts on “Amuse vs. bemuse”

  1. There’s a fascinating debate raging over this word if you google it. I had no idea until I used it recently in some online writing in the “wryly amused” sense and someone told me this was incorrect. My sense of word meaning/usage is generally quite good, so this really surprised me and led to the googling. For me it absolutely has a definition of “wryly amused,” and some online dictionaries include this definition, while others do not. I really appreciate this website and find it usually has a very balanced view of language usage (especially love that different varieties of English are taken into account), so I was very surprised to check here and find anything related to amusement specifically ruled out. Educated English-speakers (though obviously not all of them) and respectable dictionaries like Merriam-Webster do include this definition; at the very least this website should acknowledge the legitimate disagreement over the meaning of this word.


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