There are 2 main definitions of refuse in English:

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refuse 1

Syllabification: ref·use
Pronunciation: /rəˈfyo͞oz/


[no object]
1Indicate or show that one is not willing to do something: I refused to answer he was severely beaten when he refused
More example sentences
  • Both are intense competitors who refuse to concede defeat.
  • McCarthy yesterday refused to indicate who will figure in his team selection even though he confirmed he had settled on a team in his own mind.
  • Aides to the reclusive cleric, however, have indicated that he will refuse to back a specific party in the December vote.
1.1 [with object] Indicate that one is not willing to accept or grant (something offered or requested): she refused a cigarette [with two objects]: the old lady was refused admission to four hospitals
More example sentences
  • On 18 February 2000 the Tribunal refused the applicant's request for a visa.
  • The Heritage Lottery viewed the park at the council's request but refused a grant as it considered there were sufficient existing facilities.
  • The SPCA, he notes, refuses any request to adopt an animal intended for the purposes of attack or defence.
decline, turn down, say no to;
reject, spurn, rebuff, dismiss;
send one's regrets
informal pass up
withhold, deny, refuse to grant
informal give thumbs down to
1.2 informal (Of a thing) fail to perform a required action: the car refused to start
More example sentences
  • After all, you wouldn't expect to buy a new car, pay extra for reinforced bumpers, and then find your petrol tank supplying other cars with fuel, or your engine refusing to work.
  • Occasionally a car stuck in the middle of a traffic channel refuses to budge when the light changes.
  • The dialogueless scenario refuses to jell, and is performed by Bebe Neuwirth somewhat unconvincingly, except when she slinkily dances.
1.3 [with object] Decline to accept an offer of marriage from (someone): he’s so conceited he’d never believe anyone would refuse him
More example sentences
  • She didn't tell anyone and still refused Jim, telling him that she still needed time.
  • He twice proposed marriage to Maud Gonne, and when she refused him he transferred his affections to her teenage daughter.
1.4 [with object] (Of a horse) stop short or run alongside (a fence or other obstacle) instead of jumping it.
Example sentences
  • Reeve, a keen sportsman, said his mind wandered and his horse refused a simple fence.
  • Twenty points are awarded if the horse refuses to jump an obstacle, a second refusal at the same fence costs 40 points and a third means elimination.
  • The trial judge said that refusing the fence was inconceivable and Justice Meagher said that that finding was truly extraordinary.


Example sentences
  • She doesn't want to marry him either, so she has him play the role of the refuser.
  • All who are refused entry can attempt to take civil action against the refuser; in reality none do.
  • This means reverting to studies using treatment refusers or comparing pharmacological treatments and nonpharmacological treatments as a way of dealing with this dilemma.


Middle English: from Old French refuser, probably an alteration of Latin recusare 'to refuse', influenced by refutare 'refute'.

Definition of refuse in:
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There are 2 main definitions of refuse in English:

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refuse 2 Syllabification: ref·use
Pronunciation: /ˈrefˌyo͞os/


Matter thrown away or rejected as worthless; trash: heaps of refuse refuse collection
More example sentences
  • I would ask the council to immediately reinstate weekly refuse collections of non-recyclable rubbish and to provide recycling boxes that are designed to avoid the present problems.
  • The bill does not include the cost of domestic and business refuse collections.
  • The skip containers will be used mainly for garden refuse and rubbish which does not generally fit in the normal green drums.
garbage, trash, waste, debris, litter, detritus, dross;
dregs, leftovers
informal junk


Late Middle English: perhaps from Old French refusé 'refused', past participle of refuser (see refuse1).

Definition of refuse in:
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