“The crowd was amused when the first magician pulled a rabbit out of his hat, but they were merely bemused when the second magician pulled out a pile of nonsense.”

According to the sentence above, what is the best definition of bemuse?

Check your answer!

Choice A - Bewildered or puzzled
Choice B - Amused or entertained
Choice C - Under the spell of another
Choice D - In a place of self-loathing


Bemused (adjective) – bewildered or puzzled; or, absorbed or engrossed in something:  preoccupied

Bemuse (verb) – to cause to be bewildered or puzzled; or, to occupy the attention of  

Bemusement (noun) – the state of being bemused; or, lost in thought

GRE pro tips:

You probably notice the similarities between the adjective bemused and the more common amused. Both words are derived from the Latin word muser, which (like “muse”) means “to ponder” or “to stare fixedly” and suggests being lost, or engaged, in thought. Now, when someone is said to be amused, they are engaged in something entertaining. On the other hand, when someone is said to be bemused, they are typically lost in their own confusion or bewilderment. For instance, you may be amused if you saw a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat; but you would likely be bemused if you saw him pulling some amorphous blob of nothing out of his hat.

In addition, the adjective bemused can suggest that someone is preoccupied, confounded, even spellbound, like when engrossed in reading a trilogy of books or bingeing on a fascinating new docu-series.

In any case, never confuse bemused with amused—it’s rarely a laughing matter.  

Example sentences:

“She had read the street parking sign thoroughly, so she watched in bemusement as her car was towed away.”

“I was bemused by his rather cryptic text message and wish he would be more forthright.”