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noun \ə-ˈbyüs\

Definition of abuse

  1. 1 :  a corrupt practice or custom

  2. 2 :  improper or excessive use or treatment :  misuse <drug abuse>

  3. 3 obsolete :  a deceitful act :  deception

  4. 4 :  language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily

  5. 5 :  physical maltreatment

Examples of abuse

  1. He subjected his wife to physical and emotional abuse.

  2. the buying of votes and other election abuses

  3. She was subjected to every term of abuse her boss could think of.

  4. a torrent of verbal abuse

  5. The prisoner hurled abuse at the judge.

Origin of abuse

Middle English, from Middle French abus, from Latin abusus, from abuti to consume, from ab- + uti to use

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of abuse

abuse, vituperation, invective, obloquy, billingsgate mean vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval. abuse, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language <scathing verbal abuse>. vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse <a torrent of vituperation>. invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation <blistering political invective>. obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace <subjected to obloquy and derision>. billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse <directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver>.



verb \ə-ˈbyüz\

Simple Definition of abuse

  • : to treat (a person or animal) in a harsh or harmful way

  • : to use or treat (something) in a way that causes damage

  • : to use (something) wrongly

Full Definition of abuse


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to put to a wrong or improper use <abuse a privilege> b :  to use excessively <abuse alcohol>; also :  to use without medical justification <abusing painkillers>

  3. 2 obsolete :  deceive

  4. 3 :  to use so as to injure or damage :  maltreat

  5. 4 :  to attack in words :  revile

abus·ableplay \-ˈbyü-zə-bəl\ adjective
abus·er noun

Examples of abuse

  1. He was accused of sexually abusing a child.

  2. He abused his body with years of heavy drinking.

  3. He had abused his first car by not taking care of it.

  4. She abused her friend's trust.

  5. a senator who abuses his power

  6. He abused my confidence by letting this secret be known.

15th Century

First Known Use of abuse

15th century

ABUSE Defined for Kids



noun \ə-ˈbyüs\

Definition of abuse

  1. 1 :  wrong or unfair treatment or use <abuse of power>

  2. 2 :  the act or practice of improperly using or of using in harmful amounts <drug abuse>

  3. 3 :  harmful treatment of a person or an animal

  4. 4 :  harsh insulting language <“Never a kind word for old Templeton, only abuse and wisecracks …” — E. B. White, Charlotte's Web>

  5. 5 :  a dishonest practice <election abuses>



verb \ə-ˈbyüz\

Definition of abuse


  1. 1 :  to treat in a cruel or harmful way <abuse an animal>

  2. 2 :  to use wrongly :  misuse <abuse privileges>

  3. 3 :  to use improperly or in harmful amounts <abuse drugs>

  4. 4 :  to blame or scold rudely

Seen and Heard

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February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

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