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 Scenes later, an August 1991 edition of The Sunday Times publishes the results from a national poll that found half of the British public wants Elizabeth to abdicate the throne in favor of her son, Prince Charles. Erica Gonzales, ELLE, 9 Nov. 2022 That's because Winston had refused the order to abdicate his position as punishment for aiding John. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 23 July 2022 In 1936, King Edward VIII—a monarch sympathetic to the Nazis—was forced to abdicate in order to marry the divorcée Wallis Simpson. Priya Satia, The New Republic, 20 May 2022 Akihito abdicated from the Japanese throne in April 2019, becoming the first Japanese monarch to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in two centuries. Emily Burack, Town & Country, 28 July 2022 American literature is peopled with runaways—those brave, brazen, or simply compromised enough to abdicate their responsibilities and take to the road. The New Yorker, 4 July 2022 But scandals involving Spain’s royal family began to mount in the later years of his reign, leading Juan Carlos to abdicate in 2014, ending a 39-year-long term as monarch. Ashifa Kassam, ajc, 20 May 2022 But will that logic reassure them when their parents abdicate that responsibility? Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 27 July 2022 Europeans feared President Trump would simply abdicate from the U.S. role as leader of the Western community of nations. CBS News, 29 June 2022 See More

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.

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 8 Dec. 2022.

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

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