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-​ˈ \ adverb
abjectness \ -​ˌjek(t)-​nəs How to pronounce abjectness (audio) , -​ˈjek(t)-​ \ noun

Synonyms for abject


base, humble, menial, servile, slavish

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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

As with Bost, Ng finds equilibrium between headiness and abject delight. Bill Addison, latimes.com, "Choose your own dining adventure at stunning new Auburn," 3 July 2019 The photograph became a defining image of the Vietnam War and showed Americans the abject horrors of a war half a world away. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "In news, when words fail, graphic and shocking photos often don't," 2 July 2019 Our goal was throat-ripping, abject annihilation.’’ Actually, Megan Rapinoe didn’t say that. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Paul Daugherty: The USWNT did nothing wrong in Women's World Cup blowout of Thailand," 13 June 2019 As drug users shifted from painkillers to heroin, and then to fentanyl, the county’s schools struggled to handle the fallout from parental addiction and abject poverty. Dan Levin, New York Times, "Inside the Elementary School Where Drug Addiction Sets the Curriculum," 12 June 2019 And his white supremacist beliefs lived on and prospered, even as commentators agreed that his presidency was an abject failure. Michael Kazin, The New Republic, "The Impossibility of Impeachment," 10 June 2019 Either way, the dark side wins and the weakest among us are forced to suffer and die in abject anonymity. Annika Hernroth-rothstein, National Review, "I Was Kidnapped in Venezuela," 7 June 2019 This may sound like a sentimental conclusion for a show that plainly depicted bloodshed and subjugation, and often seemed to revel in the more abject qualities of the American West. Rachel Syme, The New Republic, "The Outlaw World of Deadwood," 6 June 2019 Their poor form was epitomised by an abject performance away to Hoffenheim, deservedly losing the match 3-1. SI.com, "Peter Stöger Explains Reasoning Behind His Departure Following Dortmund's Defeat to Hoffenheim," 13 May 2018

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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Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for abject

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

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abject

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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characterized by aphorism

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