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

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

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.

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.

Examples of abdicate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Prior to Akihito, the last emperor to abdicate was Emperor Kokaku in 1817 in the later part of the Edo Period, and the royal male line is unbroken, records show, for at least 14 centuries. CNN, 13 Feb. 2022 Benedict retired as pope in 2013, the first pontiff to abdicate in some 600 years. Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2022 But one booted board member — former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway — was clearly not willing to take the news lying down, instead responding with her own letter calling on President Biden to abdicate his White House throne. Brigid Kennedy, The Week, 8 Sep. 2021 In 2017, the Japanese legislature, the Diet, enacted a law that would allow Akihito to abdicate and pass down the throne to Naruhito. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, 23 July 2021 The legislative Democrats seem to be more than happy to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities to give him that authority. Christopher Keating, courant.com, 11 July 2021 Napoleon, Corsican by birth and allegiance, established many important French institutions, from the Bank of France to the Legion of Honor, yet in the end he was forced to abdicate by his own handpicked officials. Lynn Hunt, The New York Review of Books, 26 Mar. 2020 December 1, 2017 - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces that Emperor Akihito will stand down on April 30, 2019, becoming the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years. CNN, 15 Dec. 2021 By marrying a commoner, the princess was required to abdicate her royal status. Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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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Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on abdicate

Nglish: Translation of abdicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abdicate for Arabic Speakers

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