Definition of abdicate
: to renounce a throne, high office, dignity, or function The king was forced to abdicate.
1 : to relinquish (something, such as sovereign power) formally abdicate a throne
2 : to cast off : discard abdicate a responsibility
abdicableplay \-kə-bəl\ adjective
abdicationplay \ˌab-di-ˈkā-shən\ noun
abdicatorplay \ˈab-di-ˌkā-tər\ noun
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.
Origin and Etymology of abdicate
Latin abdicatus, past participle of abdicare, from ab- + dicare to proclaim — more at diction
First Known Use: 1548
Synonym Discussion of abdicate
ABDICATE Defined for Kids
Definition of abdicate for Students
: to give up a position of power or authority The ruler was forced to abdicate.
Seen and Heard
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