verb ab·ro·gate \ˈa-brə-ˌgāt\

Definition of abrogate





  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to abolish by authoritative action :  annul abrogate a treaty

  3. 2 :  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.


play \ˌa-brə-ˈgā-shən\ noun

abrogate was our Word of the Day on 04/05/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of abrogate in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. The company's directors are accused of abrogating their responsibilities.

  5. the U.S. Congress can abrogate old treaties that are unfair to Native Americans

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.

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 rogare, which means "to propose a law," and ab-, meaning "from" or "away." We won't propose that you try to get away from the fact that "rogare" is also an ancestor in the family tree of "prerogative" and "interrogate." "Abrogate" first appeared in English as a verb in the 16th century; it was preceded by an adjective sense meaning "annulled" or "cancelled" which is now obsolete.

Origin and Etymology of abrogate

Latin abrogatus, past participle of abrogare, from ab- + rogare to ask, propose a law — more at right

First Known Use: circa 1520

Synonym Discussion of 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.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ab·ro·gate \ˈa-brə-ˌgāt\

Legal Definition of abrogate



  1. :  to abolish by authoritative, official, or formal action :  annul, repeal a recent addition to [section] 51B abrogates statutory and common-law privileges — J. S. J. Elder and A. G. Rodgers


\ˌa-brə-ˈgā-shən\ play noun

Origin and Etymology of abrogate

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

Seen and Heard

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a brief usually trivial fact

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