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 abuse (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 Detecting hate speech or abuse is about more than just catching foul words and phrases. Will Knight, Wired, "Why a YouTube Chat About Chess Got Flagged for Hate Speech," 1 Mar. 2021 Purdue-Fort Wayne women's basketball coach Niecee Nelson, the subject of a months-long 2020 investigation by IndyStar looking into alleged toxic abuse in her program, has been let go. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, The Indianapolis Star, "Niecee Nelson out as women's basketball coach at Purdue-Fort Wayne," 27 Feb. 2021 At least one woman who testified in Nassar’s criminal case said Geddert walked in during an instance of her abuse. Kara Berg, USA TODAY, "Ex-USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert charged with human trafficking, sexual assault," 25 Feb. 2021 Rosemarie told an officer about Jeremy’s suicide attempts and his abuse. Ann Givens, Detroit Free Press, "'He killed my baby': Michigan woman 'did everything right' to protect herself from ex," 26 Jan. 2021 Taking a break from music and acting to focus on her mental health and deal with her substance abuse, and being an outspoken advocate for LGBT issues as well as mental health awareness. Jordan Crucchiola, Vulture, "Disney and Nickelodeon Stars Gone Pop: A Ranking," 25 Jan. 2021 Several of Epstein’s victims have named Brunel as an accomplice to (and participant in) his abuse. Lydia Wang, refinery29.com, "What To Know About Jean-Luc Brunel, One Of Jeffrey Epstein’s Closest Associates," 17 Dec. 2020 Mistaking severity for honesty, critics pile on extra syllables and superlatives to embellish their abuse. Theodore Gioia, The New Republic, "Death to the Negative Restaurant Review," 16 Dec. 2020 Durham’s investigation into the FBI and the CIA for their abuse of power in investigating Trump and his 2016 campaign, and his 2016-2017 transition, may be protected from termination by the incoming Biden administration. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Weekly Trump Report Card: As he digs in, Trump’s political power waning," 5 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Rod Mcguirk, chicagotribune.com, "Facebook to lift Australia news ban," 23 Feb. 2021 The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Rod Mcguirk, The Christian Science Monitor, "Facebook reverses news ban in Australia. A global precedent?," 23 Feb. 2021 The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Rod Mcguirk, Anchorage Daily News, "Facebook to lift news ban in Australia after reaching deal with government," 23 Feb. 2021 Just to cover its bases, however, the city also is pursuing state legislation to remedy the holes in the disciplinary process for cops who abuse their authority. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Garcia: Police reform push in San Antonio operating on multiple tracks," 22 Jan. 2021 Not least, there is another consideration: A president who is impeached but acquitted may be emboldened to abuse power, rather than tamed. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "The Trump Impeachment Is Deeply Flawed, but He Deserves Conviction," 17 Jan. 2021 Maxwell has been held without bail since pleading not guilty in July to recruiting girls for Epstein to abuse in the mid-1990s. Larry Neumeister, Star Tribune, "In 2016, Maxwell said she grew unhappy with Jeffrey Epstein," 28 Jan. 2021 Through all the history of God’s redemptive work in the world, civil rulers have worked against God’s people, have sought to overrule God, to abuse their sphere of power by stepping into God’s kingdom and trying to take authority. John Macarthur, Harpers Magazine, "Fresca and Brimstone," 5 Jan. 2021 In the suit, Barnett claims that the Hollywood star subjected her to abuse throughout their year-long romantic relationship. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "FKA Twigs’ Lawsuit Against Shia LaBeouf Is Far From His First," 15 Dec. 2020

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

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Abuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abuse. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

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
3a : masturbate
b : to subject to abuse and especially to rape or indecent assault

Other Words from abuse

abusable \ -​ˈbyü-​zə-​bəl How to pronounce abuse (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

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

Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

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!