abdicate

verb
ab·​di·​cate | \ ˈab-di-ˌkāt How to pronounce abdicate (audio) \
abdicated; abdicating

Definition of abdicate

intransitive verb

: to renounce a throne, high office, dignity, or function The king was forced to abdicate.

transitive verb

1 : to relinquish (something, such as sovereign power) formally abdicate a throne
2 : to cast off : discard abdicate a responsibility

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from abdicate

abdicable \ -​kə-​bəl How to pronounce abdicable (audio) \ adjective
abdicator \ ˈab-​di-​ˌkā-​tər How to pronounce abdicator (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for abdicate

abdicate, renounce, resign mean to give up a position with no possibility of resuming it. abdicate implies a giving up of sovereign power or sometimes an evading of responsibility such as that of a parent. abdicated the throne renounce may replace it but often implies additionally a sacrifice for a greater end. renounced her inheritance by marrying a commoner resign applies to the giving up of an unexpired office or trust. resigned from the board

Should you abdicate, abrogate, abjure, or just resign?

Several words may be confused with abdicate through either a similarity of sound or of meaning. Among these are abrogate, abjure, and resign. All of these words have multiple meanings that are quite distinct from one another, yet each also has a degree of semantic overlap that renders them nearly synonymous with at least one of the others.

Abdicate is most often used to describe a head of state or member of a royal family voluntarily renouncing a position. It may also refer to the act of failing to fulfill a duty a responsibility. It shares this second meaning with abrogate (although the “failing to fulfill one’s duty” sense of this word is more common in the United Kingdom than in the United States). The senses of abrogate most commonly found are “to annul” or “to do away with.”

Abjure may be used to mean “to abstain from” or “to give up,” but often is used with the meaning of “to disclaim formally or renounce upon oath” (it comes from the Latin jurare, meaning “to swear”).

And finally, resign is often used with the meaning of “to give up one’s office or position.”

Despite the similarities among these words, they tend to be used in fairly specific settings. You would not typically tell your employer that you are abdicating your position in order to look for a better job; you would say that you are resigning. And when the king of a country renounces his claim on the throne to marry his one true love, he would be said to abdicate, rather than resign, his position.

Did You Know?

Give it up. English includes many words for the process of throwing in the towel, especially for relinquishing a job or elected office. Abdicate, a derivative of the prefix ab- (meaning "from," "away," or "off") and the Latin verb dicare (meaning to "proclaim"), has been used primarily for those who give up sovereign power or who evade a very serious responsibility (such as parental responsibility). Renounce is often used as a synonym of abdicate, but it adds to that term the suggestion that an individual is giving up something as a sacrifice to achieve a far greater end. Resign is another option when you are describing a more matter-of-fact departure from a job, office, or trust.

Examples of abdicate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Michiko, 84, received the title of empress emerita after her husband, Akihito, abdicated on April 30. Washington Post, "Japan’s ex-Empress Michiko has early stage breast cancer," 10 Aug. 2019 In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire went out of existence as Emperor Francis II abdicated. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 6 Aug. 2019 And today, long after cotton abdicated its status as king of the state’s economy to manufacturing, through ups and downs over two centuries, there are still Alabamians who grow it for buyers all over the world. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al.com, "Cotton, once king in Alabama, still rules on these family farms," 14 July 2019 Skidmore provides that an agency’s views may persuade but never control a court’s judgment and doesn’t abdicate judicial review to the executive. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Case of Excessive Deference," 26 June 2019 When her brother-in-law abdicated in 1936, Albert became King George VI and Elizabeth became the Queen consort of the United Kingdom. The Editors, Town & Country, "The British Royal Family Tree," 19 May 2018 When Crown Prince Naruhito accedes to the Chrysanthemum throne as Japan’s new emperor at the end of April, his country will be briefly abdicating its role as the primary provider of liquidity in the thinnest trading hours of the day. Mike Bird, WSJ, "Japan’s Coronation Leaves an Empty Throne in Asian Trading," 30 Jan. 2019 This does not, however, abdicate the State’s Article VII constitutional responsibilities to provide for the public education, public health, and public welfare of Alaskans, including Alaska Natives. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska Native groups criticize Sen. Reinbold for ‘inflammatory’ Facebook post," 17 July 2019 In April 1917, Nicholas abdicated the throne, leaving room for a Russian Provisional Government to rule instead. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "The Dramatic True Story Of Russia's Last Dynasty, The Romanovs," 5 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abdicate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of abdicate

1548, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

History and Etymology for abdicate

borrowed from Latin abdicātus, past participle of abdicāre, "to resign, renounce, withdraw," from ab- ab- + -dicāre, ablaut derivative of dīc- (going back to *deik-) in dīcere "to speak, state" — more at diction

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about abdicate

Listen to Our Podcast about abdicate

Dictionary Entries near abdicate

Abderian

Abderite

Abdias

abdicate

abdication

abdomen

abdominal fin

Statistics for abdicate

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for abdicate

The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abdicate

abdicate

verb
ab·​di·​cate | \ ˈab-di-ˌkāt How to pronounce abdicate (audio) \
abdicated; abdicating

Kids Definition of abdicate

: to give up a position of power or authority The ruler was forced to abdicate.

Other Words from abdicate

abdication \ ˌab-​di-​ˈkā-​shən \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on abdicate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abdicate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abdicate

Spanish Central: Translation of abdicate

Nglish: Translation of abdicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abdicate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on abdicate

What made you want to look up abdicate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a wrong name or inappropriate designation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!