abdicate

verb ab·di·cate \ ˈab-di-ˌkāt \
Updated on: 12 Nov 2017

Definition of abdicate

abdicated; abdicating
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

abdicable

play \-kə-bəl\ adjective

abdication

play \ˌab-di-ˈkā-shən\ noun

abdicator

play \ˈab-di-ˌkā-tər\ noun

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Recent Examples of abdicate from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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

ABDICATE Defined for Kids

abdicate

verb ab·di·cate \ ˈab-di-ˌkāt \

Definition of abdicate for Students

abdicated; abdicating
:to give up a position of power or authority
  • The ruler was forced to abdicate.

abdication

\ˌab-di-ˈkā-shən\ noun


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