Difference Between Amused and Bemused

Difference Between Amused and Bemused

Although the two verbs amused and bemused sound and look somewhat similar, there is no similarity in their meaning. Amused means to be entertained or made to laugh whereas bemused means to find something puzzling or confusing. This disparity in meaning can be termed as the main difference between amused and bemused. However, it is also important to note that the verb bemuse is used with a similar meaning to amused in modern usage. Nevertheless, the traditional meaning of the word is to be confused, bewildered or puzzled. Let’s look at these two words separately to discern their differences.

Amused – Meaning and Usage

Amused is the past tense or the past participle of amuse. It is also an adjective derived from the verb amuse. Amused means to find something funny and entertaining. To amuse someone is to entertain him and make him laugh. Amused is always associated with positive feelings like happiness, joy and pleasure. The following examples will clarify the meaning and usage of this word.

Everyone was amused by her silly antics.

We amused ourselves digging through an old photo album.

Do you think they were amused?

The amused audience began to demand an encore.Main Difference - Amused vs  Bemused

Bemused – Meaning and Usage

Bemused generally means to be confused, puzzled or bewildered. Bemused is the past tense, past participle as well as the adjective of bemuse. Although many people use bemused interchangeably with amused, this interchange is wrong according to the traditional meaning of bemuse.

We were bemused by her strange behavior.

The bemused man scratched his head.

The bemused child looked around him.

The loud noise momentarily bemused us.

However, sometimes, bemused is used to mean amused.  The fifth edition of American Heritage dictionary includes a usage guide which states “The word bemused is sometimes used to mean ‘amused, especially when finding something wryly funny,’ as in The stream of jokes from the comedian left the audience bemused, with some breaking out into guffaws”. Merriam-Webster online dictionary also includes the meaning “to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement”.

However, other dictionaries do not indicate this meaning. This shows that this meaning of bemuse is not entirely acceptable. Therefore, it is always safe to use bemused in its traditional sense.

Difference Between Amused and Bemused

Difference Between Amused and Bemused

Original Meaning

Amused means to be entertained or made to laugh.

Bemused means to be puzzled, confused or bewildered.

Shift in Meaning

Amused has no shift in meaning.

Bemused can also refer to feelings of wry or tolerant amusement.

Grammatical Category

Amused is the past tense, past participle and the adjective of amuse.

Bemused is the past tense, past participle and the adjective of bemuse.

Feelings Aroused

Amused conveys positive feelings happiness, pleasure, laughter, etc.

Bemused conveys feelings like puzzlement and bewilderment.Difference Between Amused and Bemused-infographic


The fifth edition of American Heritage Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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