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 But by 1969, Brian's overwhelming personal problems forced him to abdicate his role as the band's creative life force. Jordan Runtagh, EW.com, 17 Aug. 2021 Akihito, who is now 87 year-old, was the first emperor to abdicate the Japanese throne in 200 years. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, 23 July 2021 Major countries such as the US abdicate leadership on climate action as emissions rise, and temperatures soar to searing levels. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 9 Aug. 2021 In 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate by Scottish nobles in favor of her infant son James, who became King of Scotland at the age of one. BostonGlobe.com, 24 July 2021 Without reforming the filibuster, Senate Democrats voluntarily abdicate the power given to them by voters in 2020 and allow their Republican colleagues to block any advancements on major voting rights protections at the national level. Essence, 26 July 2021 Jerry Jones isn’t willing to abdicate too many news cycles. David Moore, Dallas News, 20 July 2021 America cannot abdicate our position in the global marketplace by doing nothing. Jason Brett, Forbes, 29 June 2021 If the Justices abdicate on the race issue now, the virus of racial separatism will spread ever more deeply into American life. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 24 May 2021

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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The first known use of abdicate was in 1548

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Last Updated

28 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abdicate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abdicate. Accessed 25 Sep. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on abdicate

Nglish: Translation of abdicate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abdicate for Arabic Speakers

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