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 \ ˈab-​di-​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 Owen is 80 now and remembers when royalty arrived at the Downs — the Duke of Windsor, the king who abdicated his throne. Kristina Goetz, The Courier-Journal, "World War II delayed the Kentucky Derby in 1945. Take a look back at how the race endured," 30 Apr. 2020 Marina Hyde, a columnist at the Guardian, drew a parallel between Prince Harry and King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936 rather than give up his dream of marrying a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Buckingham Palace in Emergency Session to Resolve Harry and Meghan Crisis," 10 Jan. 2020 That’s right y’all, the American woman who prompted King Edward VIII to abdicate the crown in 1936 is headed to the big screen. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "A Movie About Wallis Simpson's Life Is in the Works," 7 Apr. 2020 Japan’s Emperor Akihito decided to abdicate, making way for his son to take the throne. Stephanie Petit, PEOPLE.com, "Prince Charles Is Heading to Japan for a Royal Reason — the New Emperor's Enthronement!," 13 Aug. 2019 Back in 1936, Edward VIII made waves among the British royal family by abdicating the throne less than a year after his coronation. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "What Really Happened When Queen Elizabeth II Visited the Duke of Windsor on His Deathbed," 17 Feb. 2020 In 1936, Edward VIII (a.k.a. the Duke of Windsor) abdicated the British throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Heather Finn, Good Housekeeping, "What Really Happened When Queen Elizabeth II Visited the Duke of Windsor on His Deathbed," 17 Feb. 2020 In the letter, George accuses the DOJ of abdicating its responsibility to prosecute obscenity in online content and asks that the attorney general clarify the department’s position on whether pornography is obscene and as such subject to regulation. Zachary Evans, National Review, "The Case for Wielding Obscenity Laws against Online Pornography," 17 Jan. 2020 Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicated in April, becoming the country's first monarch to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in 200 years. Melissa Gray, CNN, "A baby, an engagement, and the pressures of palace life: This was the year in royal news," 22 Dec. 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.

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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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Time Traveler for abdicate

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The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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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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