Word: diffuse

Pronunciation: di-FYOOZ (v.) / di-FYOOS (adj.)

Part of Speech: verb; adjective

Definition:

  1. (v.) spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people
  2. (adj.) spread out over a large area; not concentrated

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


No, today’s post is not about disarming explosives. This is another word pulled from the vocabulary flashcard stack, and I found it particularly interesting for the fact that it’s both an adjective and a verb. With such a similar spelling and pronunciation, you can’t really blame me for confusing it at first with its more common homophone.

To “diffuse” something is to spread it out over a large area. Similarly, something regarded as “diffuse” is spread out over a wide area. The verb stems from the Latin verb diffundere, meaning “to pour out”. The adjective can be traced back to the Latin adjective diffusus, meaning “extensive”.

As previously noted, the verb “diffuse” is easy to confuse with “defuse”, since both words have the same pronunciation. Remember that “diffuse” means “to disperse”, while “defuse” means “to reduce the danger or tension in”. “Diffuse” also happens to multiple sub-definitions that apply to various subjects, such as physics (“cause to become intermingled with a substance by movement”) and abstract ideas (“lacking clarity or conciseness”). With its wide variety of meanings, you’re certainly likely to find one that fits your writing. Just be careful not to make your stories too “diffuse”!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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