Salinity and water-deficit stress reduce yield in agricultural crops. On the other hand, seed germination is critical in seedling establishment and subsequent plant growth. Therefore, the present investigation was carried out to evaluate the effects of chitosan (Ch) concentrations (0% [control], 0.05%, 0.1%, 0.2%, 0.4%, 0.5%, 1%, 2%, and 3%) on the tolerance of safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) to different osmotic potentials (0, -0.4, -0.8, and -1.2 MPa). Induced osmotic potential significantly decreased germination percentage, germination index and rate, length and weight of root and shoot, and protein content. Proline content, malondialdehyde content (MDA), and catalase (CAT) and peroxidase (POX) activity increased when osmotic potential was increased to -0.8 MPa. Under unstressed conditions (0 MPa), there were no significant differences in germination percentage among different concentrations of chitosan, whereas MDA content, CAT, and POX activity were increased by low concentrations of chitosan (0.05%-0.4%). With increasing water-deficit stress, low concentrations of chitosan increased germination percentage but decreased MDA and proline contents and CAT and POX activity. Thus, it could be concluded that low concentrations of chitosan exhibited positive effects on water-deficit alleviation through the reduction of enzyme activity. Therefore, chitosan should be an effective biostimulator to enhance seedling growth and plant tolerance to oxidative stress conditions, especially under conditions of drought stress.