\ yu̇-ˈsərp How to pronounce usurp (audio) also -ˈzərp How to pronounce usurp (audio) \
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 How to pronounce usurpation (audio) also  ˌyü-​zər-​ \ 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 Some even find their benefit payments halted when a criminal usurps their benefits. CBS News, "Criminals stealing billions of dollars in unemployment benefits," 8 June 2020 And, after months when covid-19 wholly usurped the agenda, Brexit is back to the fore. The Economist, "Brexit Deadlock looms at Brexit talks next week," 28 May 2020 Alcalá turned himself in to U.S. officials in late March after being indicted on narcotics charges to train dozens of defectors from Venezuela's security forces, aimed at usurping Maduro. Fox News, "Behind the rogue and botched attack to kidnap Venezuela’s Maduro," 5 May 2020 Of all the gadgets smartphones usurped and sent to the grave, the alarm clock was among the first and most deserving. Matt Jancer, Wired, "The Best Sunrise Alarms to Help You Rise and Shine," 5 Feb. 2020 Eli Manning retired, usurped as the Giants’ leader after 16 years. Elena Bergeron, New York Times, "Is the Black Quarterback Revolution Going to Last?," 2 Feb. 2020 In 1832, the Supreme Court handed down a decision, in Worcester v. Georgia, that effectively prohibited the states from usurping Native Americans’ sovereignty over their lands. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "Trump, Impeachment, and the Short-Term Thinking of the G.O.P.," 26 Jan. 2020 Here are a few things the company can do to better its chances of usurping Sony's title in 2020 and beyond. Chris Morris, Fortune, "3 Things Microsoft Must Do to Make Xbox Series X a Hit," 13 Dec. 2019 The subcommittee's actions angered members of the education committees, who said that the subcommittee had overstepped and usurped the education committees. Hunter Field, Arkansas Online, "State Capitol's school-fund split lingers," 22 Nov. 2019

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

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

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Last Updated

11 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Usurp.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for usurp


How to pronounce usurp (audio) How to pronounce usurp (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of usurp

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


\ yu̇-ˈsərp How to pronounce usurp (audio) , -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 How to pronounce usurp (audio) \

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-​ How to pronounce usurpation (audio) \ noun
usurper \ yu̇-​ˈsər-​pər, -​ˈzər-​ How to pronounce usurper (audio) \ noun

History and Etymology for usurp

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on usurp

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for usurp

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with usurp

Spanish Central: Translation of usurp

Nglish: Translation of usurp for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of usurp for Arabic Speakers

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