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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web But church leaders say this is not enough, and that the government is abdicating its duty to keep the peace. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Apr. 2023 The Crown Netflix's wildly popular royal family drama is set to abdicate the throne. Brendan Morrow, The Week, 20 Mar. 2023 In this season, Charles is shown manipulating, orchestrating, conspiring, with the press (egads) and politicos, to cast shade on his mother and to convince the prime minister, Major, to convince the queen to abdicate the throne and make way for a next generation, meaning Charles. Karla Adam, Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2022 He was forced to abdicate less than four years later when a republican revolt overthrew the Qing dynasty, though he was permitted to continue living in the imperial palace in Beijing (and was briefly reinstated as emperor in 1917). Oscar Holland, CNN, 8 May 2023 Trump and his supporters touted the rally on the Capitol days in advance in order to intensify pressure on Pence and congressional Republicans to abdicate their constitutional duty to preside over the counting of the states’ electoral votes and acknowledge Biden as the winner of the election. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, 17 Jan. 2021 Her daughter had always vowed never to abdicate. Rasha Ali, USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2022 However, when his older brother—King Edward VIII, later known as the Duke of Windsor—abdicated less than a year after inheriting the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the then-prince was crowned. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 26 Mar. 2023 Set in gardens stretching to 1.5 hectares, the 14-room mansion was wherethe former king, who scandalized British society after abdicating in 1936, lived out his later life with his wife. Lianne Kolirin, CNN, 23 Mar. 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 31 May. 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

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