in·​ter·​reg·​num | \ ˌin-tə-ˈreg-nəm How to pronounce interregnum (audio) \
plural interregnums or interregna\ ˌin-​tə-​ˈreg-​nə How to pronounce interregna (audio) \

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 War would, of course, be inevitable, but the interregnum between wars would be lengthened. Steven Simon, The New York Review of Books, "The Middle East: Trump Blunders In," 16 Jan. 2020 Instead of the final act of Mueller’s investigation, the hearing is likely to feel like a strange interregnum, the in-between as Congress wrestles with how far and how long to press its own inquiries. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "The Definitive Congressional Guide to Robert Mueller’s Mind," 22 July 2019 Back during the Steve Jobs interregnum, Tim Cook was running around the globe finding partners to make products. Andy Kessler, WSJ, "Where in the World Is Larry Page?," 30 Dec. 2018 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

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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Time Traveler for interregnum

Time Traveler

The first known use of interregnum was in 1590

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Statistics for interregnum

Last Updated

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Interregnum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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