re·fuse 1 (rĭ-fyz)
v. re·fused, re·fus·ing, re·fus·es
a. To indicate unwillingness to do, accept, give, or allow: She was refused admittance. He refused treatment.
b. To indicate unwillingness (to do something): refused to leave.
2. To decline to jump (an obstacle). Used of a horse.
To decline to do, accept, give, or allow something.
[Middle English refusen, from Old French refuser, from Vulgar Latin *refūsāre, probably blend of Latin recūsāre, to refuse; see RECUSE, and Latin refūtāre, refute; see REFUTE.]
Synonyms: refuse1, decline, reject, spurn, rebuff
These verbs mean to be unwilling to accept, consider, or receive someone or something. Refuse implies determination and often brusqueness: "The commander ... refused to discuss questions of right" (George Bancroft). "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" (Mario Puzo).
To decline is to refuse politely: "I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters ... and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize" (Sinclair Lewis).
Reject suggests the discarding of someone or something as defective or useless; it implies categoric refusal: "He again offered himself for enlistment and was again rejected" (Arthur S.M. Hutchinson).
To spurn is to reject scornfully or contemptuously: "The more she spurns my love, / The more it grows" (Shakespeare).
Rebuff pertains to blunt or disdainful rejection: "He had ... gone too far in his advances, and had been rebuffed" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
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