ab·​ject | \ ˈab-ˌjekt How to pronounce abject (audio) \

Definition of abject

1 : sunk to or existing in a low state or condition : very bad or severe living in abject poverty to lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen— John Milton abject failure
2a : cast down in spirit : servile, spiritless a man made abject by suffering an abject coward
b : showing hopelessness or resignation abject surrender
3 : expressing or offered in a humble and often ingratiating spirit abject flattery an abject apology

Other Words from abject

abjectly \ ˈab-​ˌjek(t)-​lē How to pronounce abject (audio) , ab-​ˈjek(t)-​ \ adverb
abjectness \ ˈab-​ˌjek(t)-​nəs How to pronounce abject (audio) , ab-​ˈjek(t)-​ \ noun

Synonyms for abject


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mean, ignoble, abject, sordid mean being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity. mean suggests small-mindedness, ill temper, or cupidity. mean and petty satire ignoble suggests a loss or lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit. an ignoble scramble after material possessions abject may imply degradation, debasement, or servility. abject poverty sordid is stronger than all of these in stressing physical or spiritual degradation and abjectness. a sordid story of murder and revenge

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Abject comes from "abjectus," the past participle of the Latin verb abicere, meaning "to cast off." Its original meaning in English was "cast off" or "rejected," but it is now used to refer more broadly to things in a low state or condition. "Abject" shares with "mean," "ignoble," and "sordid" the sense of being below the normal standards of human decency and dignity. "Abject" may imply degradation, debasement, or servility ("abject poverty"). "Mean" suggests having such repellent characteristics as small-mindedness, ill temper, or cupidity ("mean and petty satire"). "Ignoble" suggests a loss or lack of some essential high quality of mind or spirit ("an ignoble scramble after material possessions"). "Sordid" is stronger than all of these in stressing physical or spiritual degradation and lowness ("a sordid story of murder and revenge").

Examples of abject in a Sentence

… the time would come that no human being should be humiliated or be made abject. — Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong, 1977 … my critical intelligence sometimes shrivels to an abject nodding of the head. — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper's, May 1971 … nothing seemed to have changed at the Beehive across the years. The same pallid employees were visible in the same abject state of peonage, cringing under the whiplash of overseers. — S. J. Perelman, Baby, It's Cold Inside, 1970 They live in abject misery. He offered an abject apology. She thought he was an abject coward.
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Recent Examples on the Web When we were finally released, we were given $25 each and a bus ticket to Skid Row to live in abject poverty. Martine Paris, Forbes, 20 Sep. 2021 The university didn’t spend tens of millions to replace coach Tom Herman and most of his staff with Sarkisian and Co. just to play in the Liberty or Cheez-It Bowl, but missing the postseason entirely would be an abject humiliation. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, 8 Nov. 2021 McBride epitomized the physical standard of UAB, producing an exercise in abject brutality from which none could survive. Evan Dudley, al, 6 Nov. 2021 There’s a scene in which a young caregiver, faced with abject suffering, must make an ethical decision. BostonGlobe.com, 4 Nov. 2021 In the face of abject loss and society-level trauma, how does work bring meaning to our lives? Kathryn Hymes, Wired, 1 Nov. 2021 Trust me, if the board saves Bell Bowl Prairie, people who care about this sort of thing — and, for the record, that should be all of us — will have scraped chins from their jaws hitting the floor in abject shock. Rex Huppke, chicagotribune.com, 25 Oct. 2021 After decades of abject somnolence, American labor seems to be stirring. Los Angeles Times, 19 Oct. 2021 The abject joy at blowing bubbles or shaking bodies to a catchy song. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, 19 Oct. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abject.' 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 abject

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abject

Middle English, "outcast, rejected, lowly," borrowed from Latin abjectus "downcast, humble, sordid," from past participle of abicere "to throw away, throw down, overcome, abandon," from ab- ab- + -icere, reduced form of jacere "to throw" — more at jet entry 3

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The first known use of abject was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

27 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abject.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abject. Accessed 3 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for abject


ab·​ject | \ ˈab-ˌjekt How to pronounce abject (audio) \

Kids Definition of abject

1 : very bad or severe abject poverty
2 : low in spirit, strength, or hope an abject coward

Other Words from abject

abjectly adverb He stared abjectly at his ruined home.

More from Merriam-Webster on abject

Nglish: Translation of abject for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abject for Arabic Speakers


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