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 But when Nicholas II abdicated the throne in 1917, Alexander Palace became the family’s prison. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "From Nazi Prisons to Cat Sanctuaries, Explore the Many Lives of These Russian Palaces," 19 Aug. 2019 Napoleon had abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba. National Geographic, "Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo—here’s what went wrong," 15 Aug. 2019 Hari Singh abdicates in favour of his son Karan Singh. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "A timeline of key events that shaped the unique identity of Kashmir within India," 5 Aug. 2019 Unfortunately, for the past three decades, our antitrust agencies have irresponsibly abdicated their role in enforcing antitrust law. Cory Booker For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Cory Booker: A handful of companies make most of our food. We need to end big food mergers," 25 July 2019 Pelosi is abdicating responsibility now in order to avoid accusations of culpability in the future. Elizabeth Spiers, The New Republic, "Beyond Pelosi," 24 July 2019 A century earlier, Britain’s royal family never forgave American divorcee Wallis Simpson for marrying King Edward VIII, obliging him to abdicate. Ben Widdicombe, Town & Country, "Does Succession Get Tom and Shiv's Relationship Right? A Vanderbilt Says Yes.," 11 Aug. 2019 Unfortunately, the imperial court ceased to exist when rebels forced the last Qing emperor to abdicate in 1912. Helen Raleigh, WSJ, "What Socialism Meant for My Great-Grandfather," 7 July 2019 Already, the influence of the group was substantially weakened when Mexico, following the inauguration in December of leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, abdicated its leadership role and took a more passive position. Tracy Wilkinsonstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Argentina election raises doubts about Trump’s bet on right-wing leaders," 10 Sep. 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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Statistics for abdicate

Last Updated

27 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for abdicate

The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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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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