for·​swear fȯr-ˈswer How to pronounce forswear (audio)
variants or less commonly foreswear
forswore fȯr-ˈswȯr How to pronounce forswear (audio) ; forsworn fȯr-ˈswȯrn How to pronounce forswear (audio) ; forswearing

transitive verb

: to make a liar of (oneself) under or as if under oath
: to reject or renounce under oath
: to renounce earnestly
: to deny under oath

intransitive verb

: to swear falsely

Did you know?

Forswear (which is also sometimes spelled foreswear) is the modern English equivalent of Old English forswerian. It can suggest denial ("[Thou] would'st forswear thy own hand and seal" — John Arbuthnot, John Bull) or perjury ("Is it the interest of any man … to lie, forswear himself, indulge hatred, seek desperate revenge, or do murder?" — Charles Dickens, American Notes). But in current use, it most often has to do with giving something up, as in "The feuding parties agreed to forswear violence" and "She refused to forswear her principles."

Choose the Right Synonym for forswear

abjure, renounce, forswear, recant, retract mean to withdraw one's word or professed belief.

abjure implies a firm and final rejecting or abandoning often made under oath.

abjured the errors of his former faith

renounce may carry the meaning of disclaim or disown.

renounced abstract art and turned to portrait painting

forswear may add an implication of perjury or betrayal.

I cannot forswear my principles

recant stresses the withdrawing or denying of something professed or taught.

if they recant they will be spared

retract applies to the withdrawing of a promise, an offer, or an accusation.

the newspaper had to retract the story

Examples of forswear in a Sentence

She forswore her allegiance to the old regime. He foreswore cigarettes as his New Year's resolution.
Recent Examples on the Web Neither Jewish nor American history (nor any other) indefinitely forswears violence regardless of provocation. Steve Koppman, The Mercury News, 7 Mar. 2024 In a conflict, our adversaries aren’t going to forswear using all possible means to disrupt our military operations — indeed, the workings of our society itself — because of a principled opposition to waging war above Earth’s atmosphere. The Editors, National Review, 16 Feb. 2024 Insurance rates for shipping are going up, and companies are forswearing the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, that great shortcut connecting Europe and Asia. Rich Lowry, National Review, 19 Dec. 2023 The new Speaker, a politician who opposes basic human rights for many Americans and who would forswear his oath to the Constitution to keep a dishonest demagogue in power, represents an extreme minority of the country. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 26 Oct. 2023 Sullivan was correct to forswear a U.S. nuclear buildup, which would prove an ultimately futile attempt to maintain counterforce and damage-limitation capabilities against two nuclear peers. Charles L. Glaser, Foreign Affairs, 5 Oct. 2023 Saudi Arabia has also hedged its bets, refusing to forswear enrichment or reprocessing and maintaining an outdated arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency that limits the access of international inspectors. Eric Brewer, Foreign Affairs, 17 Nov. 2022 Most important of all—given that the specter of Ukraine’s NATO membership was the precipitating cause of the war—Kyiv would need to forswear membership and accept permanent neutrality. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 3 May 2023 But driving on the autobahn, long stretches of which forswear any speed limit at all, can be a chilling experience for the timid. Paul Hockenos, CNN, 23 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'forswear.' 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 forsweren, from Old English forswerian, from for- + swerian to swear

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of forswear was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near forswear

Cite this Entry

“Forswear.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants also foreswear
forswore -ˈswō(ə)r How to pronounce forswear (audio)
; forsworn -ˈswō(ə)rn How to pronounce forswear (audio)
; forswearing
: to make a false statement while under oath : commit perjury

Legal Definition


forswore -ˈswōr How to pronounce forswear (audio) ; forsworn -ˈswōrn How to pronounce forswear (audio) ; forswearing

transitive verb

: to reject, renounce, or deny under oath
: to renounce earnestly

intransitive verb

: to swear falsely : commit false swearing

More from Merriam-Webster on forswear

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