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

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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 This was removed, according to teachers, after Hong Kongers protested in 2014 for universal suffrage. Washington Post, "Teachers face threats, books are banned as China pushes party line in Hong Kong schools," 7 July 2020 The exhibit honors the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and features a collection of works by women spanning the last century. Danielle Duclos, Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage galleries cautiously return to in-person First Friday events," 3 July 2020 The increasing genesis of two-noun woman phrases correlated with a growing presence in the papers of another gender-shaking, world-altering word: suffrage. Rachel Lance, Scientific American, "Why Does the Phrase "Woman Scientist" Even Exist?," 2 July 2020 Millions of citizens of all ages and walks of life took to the streets to oppose Beijing’s erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and demand universal suffrage and police accountability. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Hong Kongers fear drastic law marks ‘before’ and ‘after’," 1 July 2020 Frederick Douglass visited her great-great grandmother often and Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her letters thanking her for her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement. Ericka Blount Danois, Essence, "Play Another Slow Jam: An Oral History of The Quiet Storm," 26 June 2020 Children are being asked to submit drawings by July 6 depicting individuals, objects and events representing the suffrage movement. Time, "First Lady Melania Trump Announces National Youth Art Project on Women's Suffrage," 15 June 2020 The suffrage movement spanned 72 years as women activists fought for voting rights. oregonlive, "West Linn outdoor exhibit honors women’s suffrage movement," 10 June 2020 In honor of the constitutional amendment that gave white women the right to vote, the images of leaders from the suffrage and civil rights movements will be projected on Mount Rushmore later this summer. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, "The economy is starting to recover, but it’s leaving black women behind," 8 June 2020

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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Last Updated

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Suffrage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suffrage. Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for suffrage

suffrage

noun
How to pronounce suffrage (audio)

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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