dis·​avow ˌdis-ə-ˈvau̇ How to pronounce disavow (audio)
disavowed; disavowing; disavows

transitive verb

: to deny responsibility for : repudiate
disavowed the actions of his subordinates
: to refuse to acknowledge or accept : disclaim
party leaders disavowed him
… have publicly disavowed any claim on the Graceland estate.Dan Chu
disavowable adjective
disavowal noun

Did you know?

When is a vow not a vow? When it has been disavowed, for one. Let’s say you make a solemn pledge to eat green vegetables every day of the week and twice on Sundays. If a few months down the cruciferous road you decide such a diet is for the rabbits, you might disavow (that is, repudiate or deny responsibility for) your earlier vow. Or perhaps you stick to it, going so far as to eat nothing but brassicas 24/7. Well, in that case, your local chapter of the Carnivore’s Club might illustrate another meaning of disavow by disavowing you (refusing to acknowledge or accept you) as a member any longer. Now when is a vow not avow? You might be surprised to learn that vow and avow/disavow are not related. Though all three words came to English from Latin via Anglo-French, they have distinct roots: vow comes from the Latin verb vovēre, meaning “to vow,” while avow and disavow trace back to the verb advocare, meaning “to summon.” We stand by it: there’s no denying that disavow has history.

Examples of disavow in a Sentence

He disavowed the actions of his subordinates. She now seems to be trying to disavow her earlier statements.
Recent Examples on the Web Both Mack and Clyne have since publicly disavowed Raniere’s teachings; Mack was sentenced to three years in prison in 2021, and was released earlier this year. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 20 Nov. 2023 Her latest column can be found here, and is focused on the disaster that befell a party disrupted by a charismatic outsider: To win like Reagan, disavow Reagan and his narrative about America’s past. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Nov. 2023 Israeli leaders have disavowed the remarks from a fringe government official who suggested the military could use a nuclear weapon in its war with Hamas. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 5 Nov. 2023 Later, as chancellor in 2015, Mr. Jones disavowed those comments and apologized for making them. Riley Robinson, The Christian Science Monitor, 2 Nov. 2023 Some groups disavowed it after a major law firm and a hedge fund vowed to not hire students associated with the groups and conservative activists broadcast their names. Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times, 23 Oct. 2023 Trump’s approach to the rest of the world was a strange form of assertive unilateralism, an approach that explicitly disavowed the concept of global leadership while flexing American power, especially military might. Blaise Malley, The New Republic, 5 Oct. 2023 He was convicted in the 1972 bombing of an Arab activist’s Hollywood home, and sentenced to three years’ probation after disavowing his JDL affiliation in court. Gabriel San Román, Los Angeles Times, 30 Oct. 2023 The 69-year-old’s outsider campaign has curried favor with some members of the far right for disavowing aspects of U.S. history while touting vaccine conspiracy theories. Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, The New Republic, 18 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English desavowen, from Anglo-French desavouer, from des- dis- + avouer to avow

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of disavow was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near disavow

Cite this Entry

“Disavow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disavow. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


dis·​avow ˌdis-ə-ˈvau̇ How to pronounce disavow (audio)
: to deny having, knowing, or being responsible for
will disavow any knowledge of your activities
disavowal noun

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