dis·​fran·​chise (ˌ)dis-ˈfran-ˌchīz How to pronounce disfranchise (audio)
disfranchised; disfranchising; disfranchises
disfranchisement noun

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What Does It Mean to Disenfranchise Someone?

Disenfranchise first appeared in English in the 17th century, preceded for a period of some 200 years by the now uncommon word disfranchise. Though both words are, rather obviously, related to franchise, they have nothing to do with that word’s current sense “a team that is a member of a professional sports league." The original meaning of franchise was “freedom from servitude or restraint.” Although disenfranchise does broadly signify depriving someone of any of a number of legal rights, it is most often used today of withholding the right to vote, or of the diminished social or political status of a marginalized group.

Examples of disfranchise in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web These men are here to disfranchise every Black voter. al, 5 Dec. 2022 Ignoring an express statutory deadline, the justices held that potential mail delays disfranchise voters and violate the state constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. Allysia Finley, WSJ, 1 Nov. 2020 The latest five-alarm fire in Washington is over a supposed plot to disfranchise voters centered on the United States Postal Service. The Editors, National Review, 17 Aug. 2020 By 1846, residents of Alexandria had grown irritated over being disfranchised, and political control of that area returned to Virginia. Jeff Barker, Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2019 Starting in the 1890s, Southern states advanced measures to disfranchise blacks, including literacy tests, poll taxes and grandfather clauses. Frank Scaturro, WSJ, 2 Feb. 2020

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near disfranchise

Cite this Entry

“Disfranchise.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disfranchise. Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


dis·​fran·​chise (ˈ)dis-ˈfran-ˌchīz How to pronounce disfranchise (audio)
disfranchised; disfranchising
disfranchisement noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
dis·​fran·​chise dis-ˈfran-ˌchīz How to pronounce disfranchise (audio)
disfranchised; disfranchising
: to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity
especially : to deprive of the right to vote

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