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)
: the time during which a throne is vacant between two successive reigns or regimes
: a period during which the normal functions of government or control are suspended
: a lapse or pause in a continuous series

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, new approaches to global economic government were emerging which crystallized during the Second World War. Martin Daunton, Fortune, 17 Nov. 2023 A lot of that revitalization went unseen by the international film community, however, thanks to the long interregnum of the pandemic. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Oct. 2023 Maybe the movies are on life support, slogging through some long interregnum, waiting for some new, fresh form to replace it. John Semley, WIRED, 9 Oct. 2023 Because that’s really what this collection was (or seemed to be): not a major statement, but rather a cleansing interregnum after the overblown muchness of Mr. Michele’s tenure. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, 23 Sep. 2023 Many Americans are accustomed to thinking of World War II as the end of one era and the beginning of another, but for the American left, the war was a strange interregnum. David Klion, The New Republic, 21 July 2023 But there is some suggestion that these populations lost their connection to Christianity in the interregnum. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 24 June 2011 Covid restrictions ushered in an era — or at least an interregnum — of seated, socially distanced tastings, with flights ordered off a menu and brought to our table. Dave McIntyre, Washington Post, 25 May 2023 The post-Cold War era has given way to an uneasy interregnum in which great-power rivalry grows. Roger Cohen, New York Times, 26 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'interregnum.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of interregnum was in 1590

Dictionary Entries Near interregnum

Cite this Entry

“Interregnum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ter·​reg·​num ˌint-ə-ˈreg-nəm How to pronounce interregnum (audio)
plural interregnums or interregna -nə How to pronounce interregnum (audio)
: a period between two successive reigns or regimes

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