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 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 As baseline and even old-fashioned as the meal sounds, few chefs, then or now, really pull off the simple-yet-profound style of cooking with consistency and abject deliciousness. Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2021 Her often temperamental behavior — followed by the inevitable excuses and explanations, sometimes accompanied by abject apologies — drove the show’s narrative more than any of the other women in Season 1. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 June 2021 The reason is an abysmal, abject failure of leadership. WSJ, 4 June 2021 Having failed to recapture those crazy youths with the abject failure of Good Times, the couple pivoted to a zeitgeist-y road movie about a lost girl looking for love. Elle Carroll, Vulture, 20 May 2021 The abject temperature along with temperature differences can be readily measured and analyzed. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 28 May 2021 Such epiphanies, though bookended in Wright's novel between the bestial horrors of its first section and the abject bleakness of its third, are what give the novel its lasting glow. Gene Seymour, CNN, 26 May 2021 The attempt was an abject failure, with the Grizzlies going back to Tyus Jones in that role. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, 8 May 2021 Witnessing the racial divide at home and the abject poverty in parts of the Caribbean were life-changing experiences, and Lord found her life’s work as a social worker and advocate. Rifat Malik, Dallas News, 28 Apr. 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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Time Traveler for abject

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for abject

Last Updated

24 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abject.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abject. Accessed 25 Jun. 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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