suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) , sometimes -fə-rij\

Definition of suffrage

1 : a short intercessory prayer usually in a series
2 : a vote given in deciding a controverted question or electing a person for an office or trust
3 : the right of voting : franchise also : the exercise of such right

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Synonyms & Antonyms for suffrage

Synonyms

ballot, enfranchisement, franchise, vote

Antonyms

disenfranchisement

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Did You Know?

Why would a 17th-century writer warn people that a chapel was only for "private or secret suffrages"? Because in addition to the meanings listed above, "suffrage" has been used since the 14th century to mean "prayer" (especially a prayer requesting divine help or intercession). So how did "suffrage" come to mean "a vote" or "the right to vote"? To answer that, we must look to the word’s Latin ancestor, suffragium, which can be translated as "vote," "support," or "prayer." That term produced descendants in a number of languages, and English picked up its senses of "suffrage" from two different places. We took the "prayer" sense from a Middle French suffragium offspring that emphasized the word’s spiritual aspects, and we elected to adopt the "voting" senses directly from the original Latin.

Examples of suffrage in a Sentence

women who fought for suffrage even as the world entered the 21st century, some nations still did not permit women's suffrage

Recent Examples on the Web

Mormon women then became actively engaged in the fight for suffrage on the national stage and started running for office at home. Kate Kelly, Teen Vogue, "Why the United States Constitution Needs An Equal Rights Amendment," 29 Oct. 2018 Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, the daughter of Hartford Hospital urologist Thomas Norval Hepburn and Katharine Martha Houghton, a campaigner for women’s suffrage. Susan Dunne, courant.com, "Happy Birthday, Kate! Free Screening Of 'On Golden Pond'," 5 May 2018 Haynes helped her father write a book about his experiences and was a pioneer in her own right, campaigning for women’s suffrage with Eleanor Brackenridge and other local activists. Paula Allen, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio pioneer descendant organized lineage clubs," 5 May 2018 What would the fight for suffrage have looked like if ratification in Tennessee failed? Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "How Tennessee Became the Final Battleground in the Fight for Suffrage," 20 Mar. 2018 The women’s suffrage movement dates back to the 1840s, and women have continued to use conscious dressing to make subtle statements. Sara Radin, Teen Vogue, "How The Wing Has Created a Retail Environment That Actually Helps Women," 21 Mar. 2019 In Belgium, compulsory voting was introduced alongside universal suffrage as a way to avoid vote-buying. Chayenne Polimedio, Vox, "Is voting a civic right or a civic duty?," 6 Nov. 2018 Nobody is calling for return to slavery, nobody is calling for ending universal suffrage. Fox News, "Tucker: Brett Kavanaugh and the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party," 18 Sep. 2018 Her great-grandparents were part of the French resistance during World War II, and her great-grandmother demonstrated for women’s suffrage, which was granted only in 1944. Aida Alami, New York Times, "The College Student Who Has France’s Secularists Fulminating," 1 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'suffrage.' 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 suffrage

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for suffrage

Middle English, "help, aid, intercessory prayer, indulgence," borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin suffrāgium "vote, selection, aid, support, intercessory prayer," going back to Latin, "vote cast in an assembly, right to vote, decision reached by a vote, influence exerted in support of a candidate or policy," from suffrāgor, suffrāgārī "to express public support (for a candidate, measure, etc.), be favorable (toward)" (from suf-, assimilated form of sub- sub- + -frāg-, probably from the base of frangere, past participle frāctus, "to break, shatter") + -ium, deverbal suffix of function or state — more at break entry 1

Note: Senses of suffrage having to do with voting were borrowed directly from classical Latin from the 16th century onward. The older literal meaning of Latin suffrāgārī that presumably underlies the attested senses having to do with political support and voting is obscure. Though the identity of suf- is clear, the element -frāg- has been subject to varying analyses. The most commonly accepted view sees -frāg- —despite the unexpected vowel length—as representing the verb frangere, though the import is not obvious. The idea that the reference is to the use of broken pieces of tile or pottery in voting is unlikely in view of what is known of earlier Roman election practices; moreover, the primary meaning of the verb suffrāgārī is more oriented toward support of a candidate than the mechanics of voting. In a revival of an older analysis Jyri Vaahtera connects -frāg- with the noun fragor "noise of breaking, crash, noisy clamor, shouting," and assumes that the verb alluded to the noise of an armed assembly banging weapons as a sign of acclamation (see "The origin of Latin suffrāgium," Glotta, vol. 61 [1993], pp. 66-80.)

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The first known use of suffrage was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for suffrage

suffrage

noun

English Language Learners Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote in an election

suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) \

Kids Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote

suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) \

Legal Definition of suffrage

1 : a vote in deciding a controverted question or the choice of a person for an office or trust no State…shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the SenateU.S. Constitution art. V
2 : the right of voting : franchise also : the exercise of such right

History and Etymology for suffrage

Latin suffragium vote, political support, from suffragari to support with one's vote

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