re·​cuse ri-ˈkyüz How to pronounce recuse (audio)
recused; recusing

transitive verb

: to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case
broadly : to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest
recusal noun

Did you know?

If you ever find yourself accused of refusing to recuse yourself, look on the bright side: you may be in a legal predicament, but you’ve also got a great occasion to learn some etymology. Accuse and recuse not only share space in the vocabulary of the courtroom, they both ultimately trace back to the Latin word causa, meaning “legal case,” “reason,” or “cause.” The current legal use of recuse to mean “to disqualify (oneself) as a judge” didn’t settle into frequent use until the 19th century. Broader application soon followed, and you can now recuse yourself from such things as debates and decisions as well as court cases.

Examples of recuse in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web More:Trump at Supreme Court: Ham sandwiches and solar eclipses - Justice Alito has questions Calls for recusal There have already been calls for Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from those decisions because of his wife’s political advocacy. Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY, 17 May 2024 The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday called on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election after a photo of an upside-down American flag flying at his home in January 2021 was published in The New York Times. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 17 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for recuse 

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

Word History


Middle English, to refuse, reject, from Anglo-French recuser, from Latin recusare

First Known Use

1829, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of recuse was in 1829


Dictionary Entries Near recuse

Cite this Entry

“Recuse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Legal Definition


transitive verb
re·​cuse ri-ˈkyüz How to pronounce recuse (audio)
recused; recusing
: to challenge or object to (as a judge) as having prejudice or a conflict of interest
: to disqualify (as oneself or another judge or official) for a proceeding by a judicial act because of prejudice or conflict of interest
an order recusing the district attorney from any proceeding may be appealed by the district attorney or the Attorney GeneralCalifornia Penal Code
recusement noun

Anglo-French recuser to refuse, from Middle French, from Latin recusare, from re- back + causari to give a reason, from causa cause, reason

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