ab·​ro·​gate ˈa-brə-ˌgāt How to pronounce abrogate (audio)
abrogated; abrogating

transitive verb

formal : to abolish by authoritative action : annul
abrogate a treaty
formal : to treat as nonexistent : to fail to do what is required by (something, such as a responsibility)
The company's directors are accused of abrogating their responsibilities.
formal : to suppress or prevent (a biological function or process and especially an immune response)
Continued progress in measurement and characterization of antibodies and strategies to abrogate antibody production both prior to and following heart transplant have been encouraging.Peter M Eckman
abrogation noun

Did you know?

If you can't simply wish something out of existence, the next best thing might be to "propose it away." That's more or less what abrogate lets you do—etymologically speaking, at least. Abrogate comes from the Latin root rogāre, which means "to propose a law," and ab-, meaning "from" or "away." Proposals aside, there’s no abrogating our responsibility to report that rogāre is the root of a number of English words, including prerogative, derogatory, arrogant, surrogate, and interrogate.

Did you know?

Abrogate vs. Arrogate

Abrogate and arrogate may easily be confused because they look and sound alike and are infrequently used and therefore unfamiliar. Despite their apparent similarities, these two words have markedly different meanings and do not share an origin. Abrogate (“ to abolish by authoritative action”) comes from the Latin abrogāre, meaning “to repeal (a law).” Arrogate (“to claim or seize without justification”) shares its etymology with arrogant; both may be traced to the Latin verb arrogāre, meaning “to appropriate to oneself.”

Did you know?

Should you abdicate, abrogate, abjure, or just resign?

Several words may be confused with abdicate through either a similarity of sound or of meaning. Among these are abrogate, abjure, and resign. All of these words have multiple meanings that are quite distinct from one another, yet each also has a degree of semantic overlap that renders them nearly synonymous with at least one of the others.

Abdicate is most often used to describe a head of state or member of a royal family voluntarily renouncing a position. It may also refer to the act of failing to fulfill a duty a responsibility. It shares this second meaning with abrogate (although the “failing to fulfill one’s duty” sense of this word is more common in the United Kingdom than in the United States). The senses of abrogate most commonly found are “to annul” or “to do away with.”

Abjure may be used to mean “to abstain from” or “to give up,” but often is used with the meaning of “to disclaim formally or renounce upon oath” (it comes from the Latin jurare, meaning “to swear”).

And finally, resign is often used with the meaning of “to give up one’s office or position.”

Despite the similarities among these words, they tend to be used in fairly specific settings. You would not typically tell your employer that you are abdicating your position in order to look for a better job; you would say that you are resigning. And when the king of a country renounces his claim on the throne to marry his one true love, he would be said to abdicate, rather than resign, his position.

Choose the Right Synonym for abrogate

nullify, negate, annul, abrogate, invalidate mean to deprive of effective or continued existence.

nullify implies counteracting completely the force, effectiveness, or value of something.

a penalty nullified the touchdown

negate implies the destruction or canceling out of each of two things by the other.

the arguments negate each other

annul suggests making ineffective or nonexistent often by legal or official action.

the treaty annuls all previous agreements

abrogate is like annul but more definitely implies a legal or official act.

a law to abrogate trading privileges

invalidate implies making something powerless or unacceptable by declaration of its logical or moral or legal unsoundness.

the court invalidated the statute

Examples of abrogate in a Sentence

If UAL continues to bleed red ink, some analysts say bankruptcy—which would allow it to abrogate its union contracts—may be its only hope. Business Week, 12 Nov. 2001
We may not always like what we hear but we are always the poorer if we close down dialogue; if we abrogate free speech, and the open exchange of ideas. Nikki Giovanni, Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles, 1988
For their part, some of the pipeline companies saddled with these contracts for high-priced, deregulated gas have declared that they will simply abrogate them … Barry Commoner, New Yorker, 2 May 1983
The company's directors are accused of abrogating their responsibilities. the U.S. Congress can abrogate old treaties that are unfair to Native Americans
Recent Examples on the Web Because the United States lacks treaty allies in the region, aside from Turkey, the president could downgrade security partnerships into more neutral and transactional relationships without abrogating legal obligations. Stephen Wertheim, Foreign Affairs, 14 Feb. 2024 Council members should not abrogate their responsibility and should not approve this bill. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 25 Jan. 2024 These institutions have generally reacted with stock outrage, insisting that any coup simply abrogates rules and norms. Comfort Ero, Foreign Affairs, 12 Dec. 2023 In the past couple of years, the agency has abrogated many of its Trump-era rulings, including the ones related to voting procedures and independent contractors. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, 19 Sep. 2023 Freedom of the press and assembly were abrogated; Congress was dissolved, as were all political parties, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations. Ariel Dorfman, The New York Review of Books, 31 Aug. 2023 These pledges would reverse the damaging political trend—most recently seen in the United Kingdom—of countries abrogating previous aid commitments. Rajiv J. Shah, Foreign Affairs, 24 Aug. 2021 As Swarns presents it, the people descended from Ann Joice knew, through oral history, that her status as a free person had been abrogated, and their knowledge, and ours, shadows the book’s accounts of their lives as enslaved people and various efforts to claim their freedom. Paul Elie, The New Yorker, 27 June 2023 The Department of Justice has noted that neither the plaintiffs in this case nor the trial and appeals courts identified any other court decision that had abrogated the FDA’s approval of a drug on the basis of a disagreement with the FDA’s determinations of a drug’s safety or effectiveness. Ellen J. MacKenzie and Joanne Rosen, STAT, 20 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'abrogate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin abrogātus, past participle of abrogāre, "to repeal (a law), repudiate, cancel," from ab- ab- + rogāre "to ask, ask an assembly for approval of" — more at rogation

First Known Use

circa 1520, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of abrogate was circa 1520


Dictionary Entries Near abrogate

Cite this Entry

“Abrogate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abrogate. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


ab·​ro·​gate ˈab-rə-ˌgāt How to pronounce abrogate (audio)
abrogated; abrogating
: to do away with or cancel by authority
abrogate a law
abrogation noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
ab·​ro·​gate ˈa-brə-ˌgāt How to pronounce abrogate (audio)
abrogated; abrogating
: to abolish by authoritative, official, or formal action : annul, repeal
a recent addition to [section] 51B abrogates statutory and common-law privilegesJ. S. J. Elder and A. G. Rodgers
abrogation noun

Latin abrogare, from ab- off + rogare ask, ask for approval of (a law)

More from Merriam-Webster on abrogate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!