The word defuse originally applied to bombs. To defuse a bomb is literally to de-fuse it: to take out the fuse, rendering it harmless. Metaphorically, defusing a tense situation means easing the mood—removing the danger, so to speak.
- Geneviève defused the awkward formality with a well-timed fart.
|Geneviève defused the awkward formality with a well-timed fart.|
To diffuse something means to spread it around. You know those department-store perfume ladies who used to lie in wait, ninja-like, to douse unwary shoppers with scent? Their spray bottles are also sometimes called diffusers, because they disperse the perfume in a cloud.
- The breeze diffused fluffy white cottonwood seeds across the meadow, evoking delight in some picnickers and allergic crises in others.
|A diffuser: the perfume lady’s weapon of choice|