Rebuke vs refute

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Rebuke and refute are two words that are close in pronunciation and are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of rebuke and refute, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Rebuke means to severely criticize someone for their actions, to sharply scold or reprimand someone for their actions, to disapprove. Rebuke may be used as a noun or a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are rebukes, rebuked, rebuking. The word rebuke is derived from the Old French word rebuchier meaning to drive back.

Refute means to prove that a statement or a concept is incorrect, to disprove an argument or idea. Related terms are refutes, refuted, refuting, refutal, refutable, refuter. Refute comes into the English language in the 1540s, with the meaning to prove wrong, from the Middle French word réfuter and the Latin word refutare meaning drive back; rebut, disprove, oppose.


Top finance officials from the Group of Seven leading nations met in Canada, where the non-U.S. members issued a public rebuke of Washington’s new steel and aluminum tariffs. (The Wall Street Journal)

In a veiled rebuke of President Trump, former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warned on Wednesday that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity.” (The New York Times)

Police have refuted news reports claiming that they conducted on Saturday a raid at a deluxe apartment unit here belonging to a relative of former Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak. (The Malaysian Digest)

The prime minister did not refute our findings about a growing income tax bill, but instead noted that the analysis did not account for government transfers to families. (The London Free Press)