Every once in a while, I come across some­one using a word in a way that makes me think they think it means some­thing else. One of those words is “bemused”.

Although it rhymes with “amused”, it’s not a syn­onym of it. “Bemused” means some­thing more along the lines of “con­fused” than it does “amused”. It doesn’t help that the three words rhyme with each oth­er.

Actu­al­ly, despite “amuse” and “bemuse” hav­ing sim­i­lar end­ings, they have dif­fer­ent ori­gins.

Amuse” showed up in the late 15th cen­tu­ry, and it is derived from the French amuser, which means to divert or to enter­tain.

Bemuse”, on the oth­er hand, appeared at the end of the 17th cen­tu­ry and is a com­bi­na­tion of “be” and “muse”. “Muse” has been around since the ear­ly 14th cen­tu­ry and comes from the Mid­dle Eng­lish musen, which meant to mut­ter, gaze med­i­ta­tive­ly on, or be aston­ished.

Hope that clears it up. :)

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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