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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for suffrage


ballot, enfranchisement, franchise, vote



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

One of five demands by protesters has been that Lam must resign and that a successor be elected through universal suffrage. Keith Bradsher,, "Hong Kong’s chief executive is disheartened, but no successor is in sight," 3 Sep. 2019 Demonstrators’ demands have since expanded to include universal suffrage and an investigation of the police. Austin Ramzy, New York Times, "Hong Kong Protesters Clash With Police After Defying Ban," 31 Aug. 2019 Protesters have since added a number of other demands, including universal suffrage in the city that would allow a general vote for its leader, the chief executive. Josefin Dolsten,, "Why most Jews in Hong Kong are not involved with the protests," 27 Aug. 2019 The way to restore order and peace is not by dispersing crowds brutally while ignoring their legitimate demands—such as universal suffrage—but to respect international treaties and the will of Hong Kong people. The Economist, "Hong Kong “is a battle for survival and for freedom”," 21 Aug. 2019 Rally in Balboa Park will include ‘performances’ by key historical figures Key milestones in the women’s suffrage movement will be celebrated Tuesday with an annual rally and parade in Balboa Park. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Annual parade to mark 100th anniversary of suffrage milestones," 21 Aug. 2019 Hoar was the grandson of the Founding Father Roger Sherman and a committed abolitionist who also fought on behalf of women’s suffrage. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, "America’s Exclusionary Past and Present and the Judgment of History," 17 Aug. 2019 What started as an effort to defeat the extradition bill has since turned into a broader anti-government protest movement that demands more political freedom, including universal suffrage. Helen Raleigh, National Review, "The End of Hong Kong as We Know It," 15 Aug. 2019 Meghan delivered a third, in honor of New Zealand's 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Brings the House Down with Her Speech About Women's Suffrage," 28 Oct. 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.

See More

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.)

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about suffrage

Listen to Our Podcast about suffrage

Statistics for suffrage

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for suffrage

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for suffrage



English Language Learners Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote in an election


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

Kids Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote


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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on suffrage

What made you want to look up suffrage? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make a temporary encampment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!