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

Definition of abrogate

transitive verb

1 formal : to abolish by authoritative action : annul abrogate a treaty
2 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.
3 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

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Other Words from abrogate

abrogation \ ˌa-​brə-​ˈgā-​shən How to pronounce abrogate (audio) \ noun

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

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.”

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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web Immediately after the war, a federal grand jury specifically indicted Lee for treason – and only avoided charges when Grant interceded, claiming such charges would abrogate the surrender agreement at Appomattox. Casey Michel, The New Republic, 6 Sep. 2021 Duterte moved to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. early this year but later delayed the effectivity of his decision to next year, a move welcomed by O'Brien. Jim Gomez, Star Tribune, 23 Nov. 2020 The sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018, after President Trump abrogated the nuclear agreement between the two countries, have aggravated those failures and intensified the corruption of the governing élite. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, 18 May 2020 In 2018, President Trump abrogated the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama and imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran. Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2020 Duterte first threatened to abrogate the VFA in late 2016 after a U.S. aid agency put on hold funds for anti-poverty projects in the Philippines. Jim Gomez, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Feb. 2020 Judicial intervention, by the International Court of Justice, can be used to abrogate the Nile Water Treaties. Mahemud Tekuya, Quartz Africa, 27 Mar. 2020 After Iran signed the nuclear agreement with the Obama administration, and held up its end of the bargain, the Trump administration unilaterally abrogated the deal for no reason, and reimposed devastating economic sanctions. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, 27 Mar. 2020 Led Zeppelin asked a larger panel to reconsider, and Monday’s decision reinstated the verdict and abrogated a legal rule that the 9th Circuit adopted more than a decade ago. Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 9 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abrogate.' 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 abrogate

circa 1520, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for abrogate

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

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The first known use of abrogate was circa 1520

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Last Updated

10 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abrogate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abrogate. Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for abrogate


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

Legal Definition of abrogate

: 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

Other Words from abrogate

abrogation \ ˌa-​brə-​ˈgā-​shən How to pronounce abrogate (audio) \ noun

History and Etymology for abrogate

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

More from Merriam-Webster on abrogate

Nglish: Translation of abrogate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abrogate for Arabic Speakers


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