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 She was not born to reign, but became heir to the throne at age 10, when her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated so he could marry divorced American Wallis Simpson, making Elizabeth’s father King George VI. Washington Post, "New year, new headache for queen with Harry and Meghan rift," 11 Jan. 2020 But, these two are certainly not the first Royals to step back, forfeit titles, or abdicate from their responsibilities. Mekita Rivas, refinery29.com, "Before Meghan & Harry, These Royal Family Members All Stepped Down," 10 Jan. 2020 Instead, world leaders see Trump as abdicating America’s historic role while Russia, China and other adversaries fill the vacuum. Trudy Rubin, Twin Cities, "Trudy Rubin: Why the laughter at Trump at the NATO conference wasn’t funny," 6 Dec. 2019 The fact that the bride was a divorcee has been hailed as an example of how much the royal family have modernized since King Edward VIII had to abdicate in 1936 to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "How Meghan Markle Is Making the Role of Duchess Her Own," 19 May 2019 Rasputin also affected the Tsar's ability to rule: By the time Nicholas decided to abdicate the throne in 1917, Rasputin had the Tsar on a steady diet of hashish psychoactive herb henbane. Elena Nicolaou, refinery29.com, "The Dramatic True Story Of Russia's Last Dynasty, The Romanovs," 5 July 2019 His great uncle, Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne, causing his younger brother (Queen Elizabeth II’s father) to ultimately become King George VI. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Crown Season 3: The True Story of Prince Charles’s Younger Years," 7 Dec. 2019 The Grand Duke abdicated in 2000 in favor of his son Henri. Erin Hill, PEOPLE.com, "Royal Baby Alert! Luxembourg Royals Expecting First Child — and Second in Line to the Throne," 6 Dec. 2019 His great uncle, as in real life, abdicated the throne to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, for which he was ostracized by the Royal Family. Rachael Bunyan, Time, "The True Story Behind Prince Charles' Storyline on The Crown Season 3," 15 Nov. 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

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicated. Accessed 28 January 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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