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 abdicate (audio) \ adjective
abdicator \ ˈab-​di-​ˌkā-​tər How to pronounce abdicate (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 In 1922, Philip's uncle, the king of Greece, was forced to abdicate after the debacle of the Greco-Turkish War. Katie Frost, Town & Country, "Prince Philip's Tragic Childhood," 9 Apr. 2021 Late-career transitions can happen, though, when the colony is destabilized by unexpected tragedy—a mass death, an environmental disaster, an influx of foreign male ants—that forces the gamergates to abdicate. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, "Want to Be Ant Royalty? Prepare to Lose Part of Your Brain.," 13 Apr. 2021 His family fled the country in 1922 after his uncle, King Constantine I of Greece, was forced to abdicate and his father was sent into exile. Carly Ortiz-lytle, Washington Examiner, "Meghan Markle will not attend funeral of Prince Philip," 10 Apr. 2021 Greece's king, Philip's uncle, was forced to abdicate when Philip was a baby, and the family fled to Paris, with Philip famously carried to safety in a crib made from an orange box. NBC News, "Prince Philip, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99," 9 Apr. 2021 After the Greco-Turkish War, the Greek king was forced to abdicate and the royal family fled Greece by boat, with 18-month-old Prince Phillip smuggled aboard in an orange crate. Carlie Porterfield, Forbes, "‘Beloved Husband’: A Look At Prince Philip’s Life As The Longest-Serving Consort To The Monarch, Following His Death Aged 99," 9 Apr. 2021 The following year his uncle, the King of Greece, was forced to abdicate the throne. Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Has Died at Age 99," 9 Apr. 2021 Two years later, during the Peninsular War, the French emperor forced Spain’s king, Ferdinand VII, to abdicate and appointed the elder Bonaparte in the Bourbon monarch’s place. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "New Jersey Estate Owned by Napoleon’s Older Brother Set to Become State Park," 23 Mar. 2021 But the dream can be made reality only if the media abdicate their responsibility of critically reporting and properly highlighting the partisan boondoggles in trillion-dollar legislation. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "Treasurys Tremble," 13 Mar. 2021

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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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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