in·​ter·​reg·​num | \ ˌin-tə-ˈreg-nəm How to pronounce interregnum (audio) \
plural interregnums or interregna\ ˌin-​tə-​ˈreg-​nə How to pronounce interregnum (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 After two years of an interregnum, Fabio Luisi is building on those assets, but with some different priorities. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "Fabio Luisi leads Dallas Symphony premiere of atmospheric Angélica Negrón piece," 5 Feb. 2021 This interregnum has often felt to me like an all-encompassing, full-time session of sensory deprivation. New York Times, "How Nothingness Became Everything We Wanted," 19 Jan. 2021 Douglas draws the climbers like astronauts, specimens of brawn and brain, and the alpine competitions between nations, especially in the interregnum between the world wars, feel almost like a preview of the Cold War space race. New York Times, "Climbing the Himalaya With Soldiers, Spies, Lamas and Mountaineers," 5 Jan. 2021 Not everyone is so concerned about Trump's interregnum. NBC News, "Trump's bold foreign policy moves raise fear of 'destructive' final days in office," 6 Dec. 2020 The uncertain count in a few key swing states, especially Pennsylvania, created a long interregnum that Trump filled with more allegations of vote-stealing. Washington Post, "Is election night broken? TV news stuck to old routines amid voting upheaval — and confusion followed.," 15 Nov. 2020 If the king’s death cannot be imagined, there can be no interregnum. Fintan O’toole, The New York Review of Books, "Democracy’s Afterlife," 10 Nov. 2020 Consider that Camelot was, in reality, an interregnum between the progressive reforms of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Kevin Mahnken, The New Republic, "The Haunting of Joe Kennedy III," 1 Sep. 2020 What kind of trouble have past outgoing presidents made during the interregnum? The Politics Of Everything, The New Republic, "Dangers of the Lame Duck," 10 Sep. 2020

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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Last Updated

12 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Interregnum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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