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From Old French desconfit, past participle of desconfire (to undo, to destroy), from des- (completely), from Latin dis- + confire (to make), from Latin conficio (to finish up, to destroy), from com- (with, together) + facio (to do, to make).

Later sense of “to embarrass, to disconcert” due to confusion with unrelated discomfort.[1]



discomfit (third-person singular simple present discomfits, present participle discomfiting or discomfitting, simple past and past participle discomfited or discomfitted) (transitive)

  1. (archaic) To defeat completely; to rout.
    Synonyms: overthrow, vanquish
    • 1611, Bible: King James Version, Exodus 17:13,
      And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
    • Edmund Spenser
      And his proud foes discomfit in victorious field.
  2. (rare) To defeat the plans or hopes of; to frustrate.
    Synonyms: foil, thwart
    • 1886, Andrew Lang The Mark Of Cain, chapter 10,
      In these disguises, Maitland argued, he would certainly avoid recognition, and so discomfit any mischief planned by the enemies of Margaret.
  3. To embarrass greatly; to confuse; to perplex; to disconcert.
    Synonyms: abash, disconcert; see also Thesaurus:abash
    Don't worry. Your joke did not really discomfit me.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 24:
      The Captain, with a half-guilty secret to confess, and with the prospect of a painful and stormy interview before him, entered Mr. Osborne's offices with a most dismal countenance and abashed gait, and, passing through the outer room where Mr. Chopper presided, was greeted by that functionary from his desk with a waggish air which farther discomfited him.
    • 1853, Charlotte Brontë, chapter 20, in Villette:
      She is a pretty, silly girl: but are you apprehensive that her titter will discomfit the old lady?
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 5, in The Celebrity:
      Then we relapsed into a discomfited silence, and wished we were anywhere else. But Miss Thorn relieved the situation by laughing aloud, and with such a hearty enjoyment that instead of getting angry and more mortified we began to laugh ourselves, and instantly felt better.

Usage notes[edit]

While the word is widely used to mean “to embarrass, to disconcert”, prescriptive usage considers this a mistake (confusion with discomfort), and restricts discomfit to meaning “to defeat”.[2] However, Merriam–Webster notes that “ [] the sense "to discomfort or disconcert" has become thoroughly established and is the most prevalent meaning of the word.”[3]


See also[edit]


discomfit (comparative more discomfit, superlative most discomfit)

  1. (obsolete) Discomfited; overthrown.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for discomfit in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ discomfit” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.
  2. ^ Discomfit zone”, January 4, 2008, Grammarphobia
  3. ^ discomfit” in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.