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

Example Sentences

She forswore her allegiance to the old regime. He foreswore cigarettes as his New Year's resolution.
Recent Examples on the Web The Kremlin has demanded that NATO pull back from Eastern Europe and forswear the addition of potential new members such as Ukraine. William Mauldin, WSJ, 19 Jan. 2022 Zelensky’s alternative may be to pursue a ceasefire deal with Putin that could require Ukraine to forswear future NATO membership, among other bitter concessions. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 19 Mar. 2022 Ukraine has refused to forswear its right to join the NATO military alliance, a proposition Putin has described as a red line. Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2022 Neither Washington nor Kyiv is ready to forswear Ukraine’s sovereign right to choose its alliances. Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, 3 Feb. 2022 The West’s failure to live up to that agreement, in this argument, is the real cause of the crisis now gripping Europe as Mr. Putin demands that NATO forswear membership for Ukraine as the price of calling off a potential invasion. New York Times, 9 Jan. 2022 McCarthy's refusal to forswear his relationship with Trump and his decision to repair it is the latest troubling sign that vast swaths of the Republican Party have turned their backs on the standards and obligations of democracy. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 16 July 2021 And, perhaps most important, the U.S. should press Egypt and Qatar to use their leverage to rein in Hamas and force Palestinians to hold new elections and unify their leadership with candidates who forswear violence against Israelis. Star Tribune, 6 July 2021 The rule of law is vital to free and fair elections, and Mr. Trump is right not to forswear his legal options. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 24 Sep. 2020 See More

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

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 1 Feb. 2023.

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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