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 The Venetian Senate had no choice but to abdicate, thus ending 1,100 years of a calm and orderly republic. Kasia Dietz, Travel, "Need to complain? Here’s how Renaissance-era Venetians did it," 4 Jan. 2021 Critics in both political parties say the immunity under Section 230 of a 1996 telecoms law enables the social media companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content. Marcy Gordon, Star Tribune, "For Big Tech, Biden brings a new era but no ease in scrutiny," 27 Nov. 2020 Trump is also the first U.S. president since NATO’s founding to abdicate moral leadership of the treaty organization, and his punitive trade policies have further antagonized allies. David Montgomery, Washington Post, "Trump dramatically changed the presidency. Here’s a list of the 20 most important norms he broke — and how Biden can restore them," 10 Nov. 2020 Critics in both parties say that immunity under Section 230 of the law enables the social media companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content. Marcy Gordon, Star Tribune, "Social media CEOs rebuff bias claims, vow to defend election," 28 Oct. 2020 Critics in both parties say that immunity under Section 230 enables the social media companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content. Marcy Gordon, Anchorage Daily News, "Social media CEOs scolded by Senate Republicans over allegations of bias," 28 Oct. 2020 Critics in both parties say that immunity under Section 230 enables the social media companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content. NBC News, "Social media CEOs get earful on bias, warning of new limits," 28 Oct. 2020 State and local governments, none of which have their own money-printing press or central bank, must balance their needs with their limited resources and might be tempted to abdicate their responsibilities for quick cash. Derek Cohen, National Review, "The Biden-Harris Antipathy toward Guns Portends Trouble for Law Enforcement," 25 Oct. 2020 From time to time, the question arises whether the queen will ever abdicate. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth II Is the Ultimate Matriarch," 21 Oct. 2020

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

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 16 Jan. 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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Comments on abdicate

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