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

: to relinquish (something, such as sovereign power) formally
abdicate a throne
: 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 Pat sounds like the clear antagonist — no excuse for abuse or abdicating leadership responsibilities — but Rob’s failure to help set the project up to succeed beyond his tenure amounts to passive sabotage, if not a contract violation. Karla L. Miller, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 In 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son, Felipe, after his daughter Cristina was involved in an embezzlement scandal. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 1 Nov. 2023 Even before McCarthy’s ouster, some Republicans on Capitol Hill seemed to be more than willing to have Congress abdicate even basic functions of government, like appropriating money to keep it open and confirming Presidential nominees. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2023 Next year will see dozens of elections around the globe, but X (formerly Twitter) has seemingly abdicated responsibility for protecting users from misinformation during these democratic processes. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 28 Sep. 2023 The codirector of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs even went as far accusing Silicon Valley firms of knowingly abdicating their responsibility to develop A.I. ethically. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 17 Aug. 2023 The United Kingdom, fresh from a summer of strikes and expected to have the worst inflation in the G-7 this year, has largely abdicated its leadership role among developing countries by cutting its development budget and abolishing its Department for International Development. Leslie Vinjamuri, Foreign Affairs, 2 Oct. 2023 In France, these struggles culminated in shocking fashion when the forces of the new republican government killed some three thousand insurgents in street fighting in June 1848, only four months after the king had abdicated. Lynn Hunt, The New York Review of Books, 14 Sep. 2023 And Burger King would likely be forced to abdicate his throne if the monarch did nothing for National Cheeseburger Day. Eva Rothenberg, CNN, 18 Sep. 2023 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


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


Dictionary Entries Near abdicate

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!