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

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Other Words from abject

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

Choose the Right Synonym for abject

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

Did You Know?

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 The dark part consists of abject self-portraiture, the focus of works, including the Klan pictures, that dumbfounded the art world when first shown, in 1970. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Philip Guston and the Boundaries of Art Culture," 12 Oct. 2020 The papers were retracted with abject apologies from the journals. Matt Ridley, WSJ, "What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science," 9 Oct. 2020 Some of it can be attributed to the juvenile behavior and abject unfitness of the current one. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "Newspaper Endorsements: A Pointless Ritual," 7 Oct. 2020 Despite the abject failure to keep the president protected from the virus, White House officials defended their current protocols as well thought out. Calvin Woodward And Jill Colvin, chicagotribune.com, "An abundance of risk, not caution: Retracing Trump’s steps in the days leading up to his positive COVID-19 diagnosis," 2 Oct. 2020 Other Republicans running for re-election this year are telling the same abject lie. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, "Trump and Republicans are afraid to run on their own beliefs," 30 Sep. 2020 These vendors might be among the more fortunate of the area’s inhabitants, many of whom live in abject poverty. Smita Sharma, National Geographic, "Stolen lives: The harrowing story of two girls sold into sexual slavery," 28 Sep. 2020 Of course, this abject failure is nothing new in the never-never land of presidential debates. Washington Post, "Rewrite that list of debate topics, Chris Wallace. And put the climate crisis at No. 1.," 24 Sep. 2020 Before a hue and cry emanates to play Tua, there (still) needs to be a hue and cry to fix this abject offensive line. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "NFL power rankings: Ravens replace Chiefs for No. 1 spot after Week 2," 22 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for abject

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abject.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abject. Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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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.

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