Choose the right word
refuse, decline, reject, spurn
These words all share the basic meaning of saying ‘no’ to something, but they can also convey how or why it was said.Refuse is the most neutral word for simply saying ‘no’ to a request, suggestion, or offer ( I refused to answer their questions | he must refuse any food offered him). Refuse is the only one of these words that can have two objects ( the USA had refused him an entry visa).To decline something is to refuse it politely and rather formally ( I am sorry to have to decline your offer). Decline and refuse are the only two of these words that can followed by an infinitive ( he declined to speculate about a cancer cure).Reject suggests that what is on offer is felt to be not good enough ( an article which her editor had rejected). It is also used, especially in official contexts, when a request is not granted ( the coroner rejected a request to submit a technical report). Reject is also used of the body's immune system response to a transplanted organ.Spurn suggests disdain or contempt ( the opposition spurned an invitation to participate in a coalition government | she cut herself off from us and spurned our forgiveness), although nowadays journalists often use it in a weaker sense ( pensions managers may spurn equities). Both spurn and reject are also used of refusing affection to someone who used to be or might be expected to be the object of it ( a spurned lover | he was reared on the bottle, having been completely rejected by his mother).
dogs nosed around in piles of refuse
rubbish, waste, debris, litter, garbage, discarded matter, detritus, dross, landfill, scrap, rubble, slag, spoilage, sullage, sewage, slop;
North American trash;
Australian/New Zealand mullock
British informal gash
rare draff, raffle, raff
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