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

Then in 1910, a Women's Day was established to support the fight for universal suffrage. refinery29.com, "Women Around The World Tell Us How They Want Their Workplaces To Be Different," 8 Mar. 2018 NBC News points out that the color is a tribute to the women's suffrage movement, which often had participants wear white to symbolize purity. Megan Friedman, Town & Country, "Why Politicians Are Wearing White to President Trump's Big Speech," 1 Mar. 2017 But wasn't the suffrage movement created in part for -- to create the prohibition? Fox News, "Gutfeld: Be nicer. It will drive your enemies nuts," 5 Aug. 2018 During their visit to New Zealand, the couple celebrated the country's 125th anniversary of women's suffrage, and Meghan gave an empowering speech on feminism. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Harry Took a Gorgeous Photo of Meghan Markle During Royal Tour," 1 Nov. 2018 Born into slavery in Holly Springs, Miss., Wells became a crusading African American journalist who exposed the crime and shame of lynching and fought for women’s suffrage. Peter Slevin, chicagotribune.com, "'You can’t just gloss over this history': The movement to honor Ida B. Wells gains momentum," 18 June 2018 Her mother Edna Fischel Gellhorn was a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, championing women’s suffrage, child welfare laws, and free health clinics. Paula Mclain, Town & Country, "The Extraordinary Life of Martha Gellhorn, the Woman Ernest Hemingway Tried to Erase," 12 July 2018 The terrain of the dispute changes, such that the once sharply contested is suddenly tacitly agreed to by all parties with any power (like universal suffrage, Social Security, and a large standing army with global bases). Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Stop making second American Civil War clickbait," 1 June 2018 Not long after, women were granted suffrage, doubling the number of Oregon voters. Special To The Oregonian, OregonLive.com, "In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning," 5 May 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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Last Updated

15 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for suffrage

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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