ab·​di·​cate | \ˈab-di-ˌkāt \
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 \-​kə-​bəl \ adjective
abdication \ˌab-​di-​ˈkā-​shən \ noun
abdicator \ˈab-​di-​ˌkā-​tər \ 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

In 1975, Lao’s king was forced to abdicate, and a new Communist government installed. Hanya Yanagihara, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Luang Prabang Is the Ideal Southeast Asian City," 20 Nov. 2018 The idea that Democrats should unilaterally abdicate their constitutional obligations in pursuit of some kind of totally unspecified immigration deal is totally ridiculous. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Trump’s bizarre post-election press conference, explained," 7 Nov. 2018 To ignore the data and the patterns, advocates and the Obama administration said when finalizing the 2015 rule, was to abdicate the mission Congress gave to HUD under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Stephen Koff, cleveland.com, "HUD delays rule that was to expand housing options for the poor but was derided as social engineering," 8 Jan. 2018 The last czar of Russia abdicated on March 15, 1917, following the country’s February Revolution, bringing an end to the Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years. James Rogers, Fox News, "Incredible photos of the last czar and the Russian royal family surface," 25 Sep. 2018 Unfortunately, with its repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC has abdicated its jurisdiction over broadband communications and walked away from protecting consumers, including public safety agencies. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Verizon throttling could trigger FTC investigation of deceptive practices," 27 Aug. 2018 Napoleon, despite his storied military prowess, abdicated four days after the battle, on June 22, 1815. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "To Honor 'Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,' ABBA Should Have the Song of This Summer," 20 July 2018 With President Trump’s Middle East peace envoys looking on, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday accused the Trump administration of abdicating its commitment to a peace settlement and an independent Palestinian state. Anne Gearan, Washington Post, "Abbas, Haley exchange strong criticism over Middle East at U.N. Security Council," 20 Feb. 2018 Secretary Ben Carson is abdicating his responsibility to fulfill HUD's mission. Juliet Linderman, chicagotribune.com, "Groups sue Ben Carson over delay of anti-segregation rule," 8 May 2018

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

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for abdicate

The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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More Definitions for abdicate


ab·​di·​cate | \ˈab-di-ˌkāt \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on abdicate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abdicate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abdicate

Spanish Central: Translation of abdicate

Nglish: Translation of abdicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abdicate for Arabic Speakers

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