abuse

noun
\ ə-ˈbyüs How to pronounce abuse (audio) \

Definition of abuse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a corrupt practice or custom the buying of votes and other election abuses
2 : improper or excessive use or treatment : misuse drug abuse
3 : language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily verbal abuse a term of abuse
4 : physical maltreatment child abuse sexual abuse
5 obsolete : a deceitful act : deception

abuse

verb
\ ə-ˈbyüz How to pronounce abuse (audio) \
abused; abusing

Definition of abuse (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to put to a wrong or improper use abuse a privilege
b : to use excessively abuse alcohol also : to use without medical justification abusing painkillers
2 : to use or treat so as to injure or damage : maltreat abused his wife
3 : to attack in words : revile verbally abused the referee
4 obsolete : deceive

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from abuse

Verb

abusable \ ə-​ˈbyü-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce abusable (audio) \ adjective
abuser noun

Choose the Right Synonym for abuse

Noun

abuse, vituperation, invective, obloquy, billingsgate mean vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval. abuse, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language. scathing verbal abuse vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse. a torrent of vituperation invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation. blistering political invective obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace. subjected to obloquy and derision billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse. directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver

Examples of abuse in a Sentence

Noun He subjected his wife to physical and emotional abuse. the buying of votes and other election abuses She was subjected to every term of abuse her boss could think of. a torrent of verbal abuse The prisoner hurled abuse at the judge. Verb He was accused of sexually abusing a child. He abused his body with years of heavy drinking. He had abused his first car by not taking care of it. She abused her friend's trust. a senator who abuses his power He abused my confidence by letting this secret be known.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Democrats counter that impeachment doesn’t have to include a crime, and say abuse of power is an impeachable offense, according to an aide working on the inquiry. Natalie Andrews, WSJ, "Democrats Outline Case for Removing Trump," 18 Jan. 2020 Gay and transgender soldiers in the military have also complained of discrimination and abuse. Yoonjung Seo And Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "South Korea to rule on first transgender soldier," 17 Jan. 2020 The film was delayed from a planned January release after family members of one of the men represented in the film came forth with accusations of abuse at the hands of one of the film’s executive producers, who was also a family member. NBC News, "Apple to release 'The Banker' in theaters this March," 17 Jan. 2020 And Roberts himself had been sworn in just moments before, after members of the House delivered two articles of impeachment against President Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate. Grace Segers, CBS News, "What's ahead in the impeachment trial of President Trump," 17 Jan. 2020 Last year, a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for helping orchestrate a scheme to interfere with an FBI investigation into abuses at the county’s jails was fair and legally sound. Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times, "Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca must report to prison by Feb. 5, judge rules," 16 Jan. 2020 The bill is intended to limit the negative consequences for parties that engage in computer fraud and abuse when responding to or defending themselves against cyber intrusions. Rahul Kashyap, Quartz, "The hack back bill legitimizes a messy game of revenge for businesses," 15 Jan. 2020 The proceeding focused on whether Martinez should forfeit his seat because of numerous city staff complaints alleging abuse of power. Scott Huddleston, ExpressNews.com, "Leon Valley council women to respond to recall petitions," 14 Jan. 2020 That has amplified the number of people talking about abuse in this country. Gary Graff, Billboard, "Aerosmith On MusiCares 2020 Person of the Year Honor & Charitable Arm Janie's Fund," 14 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Attempts to hack into Burisma began in November, Area 1 said, as Congress was holding hearings on whether Mr. Trump abused his office by pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart to work with Mr. Giuliani to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "Ukraine Probes Whether Former U.S. Ambassador Was Under Surveillance," 16 Jan. 2020 These former Boy Scouts allege they were abused decades ago. Kim Bellware, Washington Post, "A woman in a Florida Walmart tried to make a bomb that could ‘cause mass destruction,’ police say," 15 Jan. 2020 While Blue Thunder ends with Murphy destroying his chopper after deciding that it might too easily be abused by Big Brother, Airwolf is a force for good. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "Forget Top Gun: Maverick—let’s settle Blue Thunder vs. Airwolf once and for all," 10 Jan. 2020 Kenney, now 85, said she was abused at the Holy Cross Mission in Holy Cross, Alaska. NBC News, "Church offers little outreach to minority victims of priests," 7 Jan. 2020 Kenney, now 85, said she was abused at the Holy Cross Mission in Holy Cross, Alaska. Anchorage Daily News, "Church offers little outreach to minority victims of priests," 6 Jan. 2020 McKinney’s lawyers say their client suffered from post-traumatic stress because of a horrific childhood in which he was physically abused, frequently deprived of food and water, and locked outside the home with little clothing. BostonGlobe.com, "McKinney’s attorneys also alleged the state court violated an earlier US Supreme Court ruling that concluded that the sentencer in a death penalty case can’t refuse to consider relevant mitigating evidence. They say the remedy for violating the rule was resentencing.," 11 Dec. 2019 The university has paid more than $100 million to people who said they were abused by Sandusky. Fox News, "Former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky resentenced in sex abuse case," 23 Nov. 2019 The university has subsequently paid more than $100 million to people who said they had been abused by Sandusky. Mark Scolforo, Houston Chronicle, "Former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky resentenced to same prison term," 22 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of abuse

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for abuse

Noun

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin abūsus "misuse, waste," noun derivative from abūtī "to exhaust, use up, misuse," from ab- ab- + ūtī "to use entry 1"

Verb

Middle English abusen, borrowed from Anglo-French abuser, verbal derivative of abuse abuse entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about abuse

Time Traveler for abuse

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for abuse

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abuse.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abuse?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=a&file=abuse001. Accessed 24 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abuse

abuse

noun
\ ə-ˈbyüs How to pronounce abuse (audio) \

Kids Definition of abuse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wrong or unfair treatment or use abuse of power
2 : the act or practice of improperly using or of using in harmful amounts drug abuse
3 : harmful treatment of a person or an animal
4 : harsh insulting language “Never a kind word for old Templeton, only abuse and wisecracks …”— E. B. White, Charlotte's Web
5 : a dishonest practice election abuses

abuse

verb
\ ə-ˈbyüz How to pronounce abuse (audio) \
abused; abusing

Kids Definition of abuse (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to treat in a cruel or harmful way abuse an animal
2 : to use wrongly : misuse abuse privileges
3 : to use improperly or in harmful amounts abuse drugs
4 : to blame or scold rudely

abuse

noun
\ ə-ˈbyüs How to pronounce abuse (audio) \

Medical Definition of abuse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : improper or excessive use or treatment drug abuse long-term abuse of tranquilizers
2 : physical maltreatment: as
a : the act of violating sexually : rape
b under some statutes : rape or indecent assault not amounting to rape
\ ə-ˈbyüz How to pronounce abuse (audio) \
abused; abusing

Medical Definition of abuse (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to use excessively abuse alcohol also : to use without medical justification abusing painkillers
2 : to treat so as to injure or damage abuse a child
b : to subject to abuse and especially to rape or indecent assault

Other Words from abuse

abusable \ -​ˈbyü-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce abusable (audio) \ adjective
abuser noun
\ ə-ˈbyüz How to pronounce abuse (audio) \
abused; abusing

Legal Definition of abuse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to put to a use other than the one intended: as
a : to put to a bad or unfair use abusing the powers of office
b : to put to improper or excessive use abuse narcotics
2a : to inflict physical or emotional mistreatment or injury on (as one's child) purposely or through negligence or neglect and often on a regular basis
b : to engage in sexual activity with (a child under an age specified by statute)
3 : to attack harshly with words abuse a police officer abuse a debtor

Other Words from abuse

abuser noun

abuse

noun
\ ə-ˈbyüs How to pronounce abuse (audio) \

Legal Definition of abuse (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : improper, unfair, or excessive use abuse of authority drug abuse
2a : the infliction of physical or emotional injury also : the crime of inflicting such injury — see also battered child syndrome, battered woman's syndrome — compare cruelty, neglect
3 : a verbal attack (as on a police officer in the performance of his or her duty) also : the crime of making such an attack

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on abuse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for abuse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abuse

Spanish Central: Translation of abuse

Nglish: Translation of abuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abuse for Arabic Speakers

Comments on abuse

What made you want to look up abuse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

a feeling of well-being or elation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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