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 Mary’s book is filled with abject horror at the monster her own family created. Molly Jong-fast, Vogue, "John Bolton and Mary Trump Seem to Agree On One Thing: Donald Trump Is a Truly Awful Person," 11 July 2020 But Dave says the only thing that kept him from falling into abject despair was watching Kobe Bryant’s last game in the NBA—a moment that appears to have been a valuable reminder of how much his own talents can lift up others. Corey Gaskin, Ars Technica, "Review: Dave Chappelle’s 8:46 lends catharsis, insight, and some laughs," 19 June 2020 All these men are white and their tenure was an abject failure. Greg Moore, azcentral, "Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio doesn't see a problem with race because he hasn't had to," 3 June 2020 All of this death — a knee on a neck, poisonous spores waiting to invade our bodies — and all of this abject fear about our mask-wearing sons doing something as simple as walking into a store — it’s wearing me down. Washington Post, "A plea for peace: We are moving toward the point of no return," 1 June 2020 My dad’s childhood in Shawnee, Oklahoma, was one of abject poverty: No water or electricity, a single mom raising 10 kids in a one-bedroom home, the family losing that house in a fire and moving into a chicken coop for one winter. Gregg Doyel, The Indianapolis Star, "Doyel: Help this country heal, or get out of the way," 4 June 2020 This ranges from abject poverty and social isolation to simply being denied the admission that a parent or grandparent was killed unjustly—that their family was not guilty of anything at all. Vincent Bevins, The New York Review of Books, "How ‘Jakarta’ Became the Codeword for US-Backed Mass Killing," 20 May 2020 In a matter of mere months, the coronavirus has wiped out global gains that took two decades to achieve, leaving an estimated two billion people at risk of abject poverty. New York Times, "Millions Had Risen Out of Poverty. Coronavirus Is Pulling Them Back.," 30 Apr. 2020 Peter lost his father as an infant, and his mother sent him to live with relatives in the rice fields, in abject poverty and against government regulations. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, "Alan Yang Imagines His Parents’ Life in “Tigertail”," 16 Apr. 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

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

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Last Updated

17 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abject.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abject. Accessed 8 Aug. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on abject

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abject

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abject

Spanish Central: Translation of abject

Nglish: Translation of abject for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abject for Arabic Speakers

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