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

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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

As his career approached its close, McCain worried that the Senate was abdicating its constitutional responsibilities. William A. Galston, WSJ, "McCain Championed a Strong Senate," 28 Aug. 2018 Once reigning, a monarch can abdicate from the throne, as King Edward VIII did in 1936. Katie Frost, Redbook, "7 Things You Didn't Know About Being a Royal Heir," 4 Sep. 2017 Their deaths came following a revolution in 1917, forcing Nicholas to abdicate in favor of his brother Michael. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Queen Victoria's Descendants Still Reign Over Europe," 17 Feb. 2019 George VI, in turn, inherited the title after his own older brother, Edward VIII abdicated to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Queen Victoria's Descendants Still Reign Over Europe," 17 Feb. 2019 While men or women may need to learn more about investing, studies conducted by financial-service companies have found that despite women’s gains in education and pay, many wives are still abdicating financial decisions to their husbands. Veronica Dagher, WSJ, "The Problem When One Spouse Handles Finances," 21 Oct. 2018 Russia hasn’t had a ruling czar since 1917, when Nicholas II abdicated the throne under pressure from revolutionaries. Thomas Grove, WSJ, "Czar Vladimir? Putin Acolytes Want to Bring Back the Monarchy," 13 Dec. 2018 Next spring, for the first time in the country’s history, Emperor Akihito, now 84, will abdicate his throne instead of finishing out his remaining days as Japan’s ruler. Noor Brara, Vogue, "All For Love: Japan’s Princess Ayako Weds Kei Moriya," 29 Oct. 2018 The Foundation’s directors failed to meet basic fiduciary duties and abdicated all responsibility for ensuring that the Foundation’s assets were used in compliance with the law,’’ Underwood wrote. BostonGlobe.com, "N.Y. attorney general alleges ‘persistently illegal’ conduct at Trump Foundation," 14 June 2018

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.

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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

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Dictionary Entries near abdicate

Abderian

Abderite

Abdias

abdicate

abdication

abdomen

abdominal fin

Statistics for abdicate

Last Updated

12 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for abdicate

The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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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

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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

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