Bemused vs Amused: Difference and Comparison

Bemused and amused are confused with each other. Often they are used simultaneously in sentences which is not correct. Both have different meanings. Bemused means something that is found to be confusing or puzzling.

Amused means to make somebody laugh or to be entertained. In the Elizabethan era, especially in the plays of Shakespeare, both the words amused and bemused were used. Both words are traditional.

The meaning of bemused has remained in the modern era. But the meaning of Amused has changed.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Bemused” describes a state of confusion or puzzlement, while “amused” means being entertained or finding something humorous.
  2. Bemusement is more serious, implying bewilderment, whereas amusement is lighthearted and enjoyable.
  3. Both terms describe emotional reactions to a situation but convey distinctly different feelings.

Bemused vs Amused

The difference between Bemused and Amused is that bemused is the past participle and past tense of the word ‘bemuse’. Amused is the past participle and past tense of the word ‘amuse’. The origin of the word ‘Amused’ is thought from some old French word. Its origin is not so clear. Bemused originated in the 17th century from the word ‘muse’. Meanings of bemused include puzzle, confuse, or bewilder (someone), bewildered or confused, lost in thought, or preoccupied. Meaning of Amused includes pleasurably entertained, occupied, or diverted.

Bemused vs Amused

Bemused is the past participle and past tense of bemuse. Over the years, its meaning has changed. There has been a shift. It is believed to be originated in the 17th century from the word ‘muse’. This word is confused with bemoan or amused.

Interchanging of the term bemuse with any of the words is considered wrong traditionally. Because it has a completely different meaning. For example, ‘The bemused man scratched his hands.’. Or ‘The bemused child looked around the park.’.

Amused means to make someone laugh or to distract attention. Often the word ‘amused’ is used in the negative sense.

Amuse also has a noun word ‘amusement’ that refers to something that amuses or is described as the state of being amused. Various examples include ‘What amusements do you have planned for the party?

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Or His obvious amusement pleased me.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonBemusedAmused
MeaningConfused, bewildered or puzzledEntertained or make someone laugh.
FormPast Participle and past tense of bemuse.Past participle and past tense of amuse.
FeelingPuzzlement and bewilderment.Happiness, laughter, pleasure etc.
ChangeShift in meaning No shift
ExamplesAs Evan threw up, he was bemused by why people were amused with roller-coastersRyan was amused that Peter seemed bemused by his behaviour

What is Bemused?

Bemused is an adjective, and it has a verb form, ‘bemuse’. The word ‘bemuse’ implies a state of confusion or bewilderment. The origin of the term bemused is very unclear.

Som says that it has a Middle English origin, and some say that this word originated from the term muse in the 17th century. Bemused means to distract someone and attract attention towards them. Individuals wonder what it could mean.

There is also a shift in the meaning of the word ‘bemused’. It also means feeling amused or wry, or tolerant. 

For example, “the boss looked bemused at the sudden decision of his employee to quit the job”. The above sentence indicates that the boss was bewildered by his employee’s behaviour and the sudden change in events.

“Sameer looked bemused when Rekha suddenly blurted out the truth about her disposition.” In this sentence, it implies that Sameer was puzzled at the outburst of Rekha and has also been wryly amused by her behaviour.

The meaning of the word ‘bemused’ is sometimes very difficult to learn for the students.

Because it means it keeps changing according to the context. People also used bemused to mean a little bit amused. However, linguists find this use not to be correct. According to them, the original meaning of the word ‘bemused’ should be used.

It has the same word form as amused, like bemusing, bemusement etc.

bemused

What is Amused?

Amused is derived from the word ‘to amuse’. Its meaning is to entertain or give pleasure or happiness. Amused can also mean something of interest. When something is very funny and entertaining in nature, then it means to be amused.

When a person is amused by something, he laughs or smiles. Amused is paired with verbs like look, seem, appear etc. For example. My friend was very amused by the clown at the funfair.

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You can see that if we want to say that someone was amused, we use the word ‘by’.

The verb ‘amused; can be used reflexively, like ‘While waiting for my friend at the station, I amused myself by listening to the songs.”

Different types of expression are related, like ‘to be highly amused’, ‘to keep someone amused’, ‘to amuse’, ‘an amusement park’, ‘to provide amusement’ etc. Amused is always related to a positive meaning like happiness, joy and pleasure.

There is no shift in the meaning of the word amused. It is believed to be originated in the Middle English period. It is taken from a Fench word.

The word ‘amused’ was very popular at the time of the Shakespearean period. Shakespeare was seen using this word in most of his plays. Since then, it has been used in the modern era. Usage has not become out of context.

It is still used in daily conversation.

amused

Main Differences Between Bemused and Amused

  1. Bemused means confused, bewildered or puzzled. Amused means to be entertained or make someone laugh.
  2. Bemused is the past participle and past tense of bemuse. Amused is the past participle and past tense of amuse.
  3. Feelings associated with bemused are Puzzlement and bewilderment. Feelings associated with amusement are happiness, laughter, pleasure etc.
  4. There is a change in the meaning of bemused. It can also mean tolerant, amusing or wry. There is no change in the meaning of amused.
  5. An example of bemused is ‘As Evan threw up, he was bemused by why people were amused with roller-coasters’. An example of amused is ‘Ryan was amused that Peter seemed bemused by his behaviour.’
Difference Between Bemused and Amused
References
  1. http://resp.llas.ac.cn/C666/handle/2XK7JSWQ/87024
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15405710pc0204_2

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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6 thoughts on “Bemused vs Amused: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I disagree with the linguists who find the use of ‘bemused’ to mean a little bit amused incorrect. The evolution of languages naturally leads to this kind of variations.

    Reply
  2. Good article, but I think a few more examples would have been useful to illustrate the difference between bemused and amused.

    Reply
  3. Is the writer bemused or amused while writing this article? That would be an interesting twist on the discussion. Thank you for the great read!

    Reply
  4. Although it’s true that the difference between the words is not always clear, I think that the origin of amused is actually from the Old French ‘amuser’, with a shift to a lighter meaning.

    Reply
  5. Very interesting and informative article. It’s useful to clarify these words, especially for those who use English as second language.

    Reply

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