\ yu̇-ˈsərp also -ˈzərp \
usurped; usurping; usurps

Definition of usurp 

transitive verb

1a : to seize and hold (office, place, functions, powers, etc.) in possession by force or without right usurp a throne

b : to take or make use of without right usurped the rights to her life story

2 : to take the place of by or as if by force : supplant must not let stock responses based on inherited prejudice usurp careful judgment

intransitive verb

: to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully

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Other words from usurp

usurpation \ˌyü-sər-ˈpā-shən alsoˌyü-zər- \ noun
usurper \yu̇-ˈsər-pər also-ˈzər- \ noun

Did You Know?

Usurp was borrowed into English in the 14th century from the Anglo-French word usorper, which in turn derives from the Latin verb usurpare, meaning "to take possession of without a legal claim." Usurpare itself was formed by combining usu (a form of usus, meaning "use") and rapere ("to seize"). Other descendants of rapere in English include rapacious ("given to seizing or extorting what is coveted"), rapine ("the seizing and carrying away of things by force"), rapt (the earliest sense of which is "lifted up and carried away"), and ravish ("to seize and take away by violence").

Examples of usurp in a Sentence

Some people have accused city council members of trying to usurp the mayor's power. attempting to usurp the throne

Recent Examples on the Web

But Driver apparently was concerned about the board's decision to install Posley two months before her departure, effectively cutting short her contract and usurping her authority as the district's chief administrator. Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Superintendent Darienne Driver to exit MPS earlier than planned," 17 May 2018 Getting used to it requires time, some give-and-take by employers and often a little etiquette training: 9% of employers offer training to curb behaviors like squatting—usurping shared space for oneself. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "The 10-Point.," 17 May 2018 That leaves no room for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to usurp the legislature’s power under vague interpretations of the state’s guarantees of free speech and equal protection, the state Republicans say. Robert Barnes, Washington Post, "Supreme Court refuses to block Pa. ruling invalidating congressional map," 5 Feb. 2018 No agency can usurp a President’s authority to staff the executive branch with the people of his choice. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Leandra English Clocks Out," 8 July 2018 The pattern of Catalonia supporting a losing side in a war, and paying through the nose for it, continued as right-wing fascist forces under the direction of General Francisco Franco sought to usurp the sitting Republican government in 1936. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "Beyond the Headlines, Catalan Culture Has a Long History of Vibrancy and Staying Power," 25 June 2018 In trying to navigate the financially ruinous aftershocks of that decision, the prime minister rigged elections, sought to disband Parliament, and usurped the powers of the monarchy. Reuel Marc Gerecht And, WSJ, "Don’t Fear Regime Change in Iran," 11 June 2018 But that was because of his original sin, which was the July press conference, usurping power. Fox News, "Sen. Toomey on move to curb Trump's trade authority," 10 June 2018 On the bright side, everyone in this picture looks blissfully ignorant of the small army of women and individuals of color working to usurp them—and there are only five months left until November. Jenny Hollander, Marie Claire, "Trump's Meeting About The Border Crisis Is Just a Dozen Old White Men," 20 June 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for usurp

Middle English, from Anglo-French usorper, from Latin usurpare to take possession of without legal claim, from usu (ablative of usus use) + rapere to seize — more at rapid

Latin usurpare to take possession of without a strict legal claim, from usus use + rapere to seize

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

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

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More Definitions for usurp



English Language Learners Definition of usurp

: to take and keep (something, such as power) in a forceful or violent way and especially without the right to do so


\ yu̇-ˈsərp , -ˈzərp \
usurped; usurping

Kids Definition of usurp

: to take and hold unfairly or by force The traitors usurp power from the king.

Other words from usurp

usurper noun


\ yu̇-ˈsərp, -ˈzərp \

Legal Definition of usurp 

transitive verb

: to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right the courts may not usurp the powers of the legislature

intransitive verb

: to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully

Other words from usurp

usurpation \ˌyü-sər-ˈpā-shən, -zər- \ noun
usurper \yu̇-ˈsər-pər, -ˈzər- \ noun

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