in·​ter·​reg·​num | \ˌin-tə-ˈreg-nəm \
plural interregnums or interregna\ˌin-​tə-​ˈreg-​nə \

Definition of interregnum 

1 : the time during which a throne is vacant between two successive reigns or regimes

2 : a period during which the normal functions of government or control are suspended

3 : a lapse or pause in a continuous series

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Did You Know?

Every time a pope dies, there's an interregnum period before a new one is elected by the cardinals. In most democratic systems, however, the law specifies who should take office when a president or prime minister dies unexpectedly, and since the power usually passes automatically, there's no true interregnum. The question of succession—that is, of who should take over when a country's leader dies—has often presented huge problems for countries that lacked a constitution, and in monarchies it hasn't always been clear who should become king or queen when a monarch dies. The interregnum following the death of Edward VI in 1553, for instance, was briefly suspended when Lady Jane Grey was installed as Queen; nine days later she was replaced by Mary Tudor, who sent her straight to the Tower of London.

Examples of interregnum in a Sentence

the democratic regime proved to be a short-lived interregnum between dictatorships

Recent Examples on the Web

During this interregnum period, type Ia supernovae, which last longer than type IIs, began to inject iron into these gases. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Milky Way Died 7 Billion Years Ago And Came Back To Life," 24 Aug. 2018 Whoever takes over City Ballet long-term must address not just the legacy of Mr. Martins but also the achievements of this interregnum, too. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "Taking the Pulse of New York City Ballet Without Peter Martins," 23 Feb. 2018 The history of kare-kare is often traced to a 20-month interregnum in the 18th century when the British wrested Manila from the Spanish. Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, "Filipino Food Finds a Place in the American Mainstream," 12 Mar. 2018 This film, an adaptation of graphic novels about the brief interregnum between Stalin’s stroke and death in 1953, was conceived well before Brexit and the rise of Trump. Frank Rich, Daily Intelligencer, "There’s a Hopeful New Path for Gun Politics in America," 1 Mar. 2018 And with Mexico heading into elections in July -- and then into a five-month interregnum under a lame-duck president before the winner takes office -- there are plenty more speed bumps ahead. Andrew Mayeda,, "American CEOs Say They’re Ready to Bring Jobs Home If Nafta Dies," 26 Feb. 2018 In May, an interregnum that had lasted nearly four years ended as Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson nominated Paul Mark Sealy (at podium) to serve as chief of the Mobile Fire Rescue Department, a position that had been vacant since 2013. Lawrence Specker |,, "Mobile's top stories of 2017: Daycare death, new jet plant, Comic Cowboys and more," 28 Dec. 2017 Would not, in fine, a government depending for its existence beyond a fixed date, on some positive and authentic intervention of the society itself, be too subject to the casualty and consequences of an actual interregnum? Jay Cost, National Review, "Christ Church Should Be Ashamed," 30 Oct. 2017 In the interregnum between Jared Kushner’s decision to step down from his family real-estate business and his ascent to his father-in-law’s White House, the now-senior adviser found himself temporarily without an e-mail address. Emily Jane Fox,, "Jared Kushner, Inveterate Rule-Breaker, Is Treating the West Wing “Like an Extension of the Trump Organization”," 27 Sep. 2017

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

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First Known Use of interregnum

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for interregnum

Latin, from inter- + regnum reign — more at reign

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Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

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The first known use of interregnum was in 1590

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