abdicate

verb

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

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
abdicable adjective
abdicator noun

Did you know?

Give it up for abdicate, a word powerful enough to undo a coronation. If you need a term to describe formally throwing in the towel, this one should prove—perhaps ironically—a royal success. Coming from the prefix ab- (meaning “from,” “away,” or “off”) and the Latin verb dīcere (meaning “to speak”), abdicate is used primarily for those who give up sovereign power or who evade a very serious responsibility. English has dīcere to thank for a hodgepodge of other words, among them dictate, contradict, prediction, and the crown jewel of them all: dictionary.

Did you know?

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.

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

Examples of abdicate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web An industry where America once abdicated leadership to China is now resurging thanks to security concerns. Ariel Cohen, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 Queen Margrethe abdicated on the 52nd anniversary of her accession and made history as the first Danish monarch to voluntarily step down from the throne in nearly 900 years, per Danish Royal House history. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 29 Jan. 2024 Denmark proclaims new king as Queen Margarethe abdicates Denmark's Queen Margarethe II signed her instrument of abdication on Sunday as her son acceded to the throne as King Frederik X. Justin Klawans, theweek, 14 Jan. 2024 On the episode, which concerns the 2005 wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Queen considers abdicating so that the former can become king. Clark Collis, EW.com, 14 Dec. 2023 Margarethe had announced her intention to abdicate last year on New Year's Eve, citing health concerns. Justin Klawans, theweek, 14 Jan. 2024 Queen Margrethe became the first Danish monarch to abdicate since 1146 Queen Margrethe of Denmark has abdicated the throne. Stephanie Petit, Peoplemag, 14 Jan. 2024 The unfortunate truth is that in its recent history of abdicating much of the expertise in safety to the airplane manufacturers and third parties, the FAA effectively operates as an agency that is captive to some of the largest aviation companies. Debra Katz, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 Royal expert Ian Pelham Turner told Fox News Digital that the news of Charles' procedure has restarted rumors that the king could abdicate in the same way Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II did earlier this month. Brie Stimson, Fox News, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abdicate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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Dictionary Entries Near abdicate

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

abdicate

verb
ab·​di·​cate ˈab-di-ˌkāt How to pronounce abdicate (audio)
abdicated; abdicating
: to formally give up sovereign power, office, or responsibility
abdication noun

More from Merriam-Webster on abdicate

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