usurped; usurping; usurps

transitive verb

: to seize and hold (office, place, functions, powers, etc.) in possession by force or without right
usurp a throne
: to take or make use of without right
usurped the rights to her life story
: 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
ˌyü-sər-ˈpā-shən How to pronounce usurp (audio)
 also  ˌyü-zər-

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 (one meaning of which is "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 The following year, it was usurped by the debit card. Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2023 Image: Google The Pixel 6A may have been usurped by the newer Pixel 7A as the midrange phone champ, but the last-gen model is still an excellent buy in 2023. Antonio G. Di Benedetto, The Verge, 14 Sep. 2023 Titled The Atrocities at Amboyna, the painting depicted the torture and beheading of ten English merchants by Dutch agents for allegedly trying to usurp control of the region’s lucrative spice trade. Caroline Elkins, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 President Biden then usurped the Air Force Secretary’s authority and named Colorado Springs the permanent basing site for U.S. Space Command in order to improve his political standing for next year’s re-election. Lee Roop |, al, 22 Aug. 2023 The Supreme Court struck down those provisions, on grounds the state had tried to usurp federal power. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, 17 Aug. 2023 Within decades of Edmond’s innovation, Réunion had usurped Mexico’s status as the world’s primary exporter of vanilla (a title now held by its neighbor, Madagascar). Ligaya Mishan Melody Melamed, New York Times, 23 Aug. 2023 But as writers’ rooms and movie sets sit dark, another fear lurks: that the industry may be on the cusp of a new metamorphosis, involving artificial intelligence, which could usurp the role of writers and actors altogether. Suzanne Nossel, The New Republic, 31 July 2023 But then, very quickly, that got usurped by the much bigger things going on in our industry with the strike. Lacey Rose, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'usurp.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near usurp

Cite this Entry

“Usurp.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to seize and hold by force or without right
usurp power from the king

Legal Definition

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

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

More from Merriam-Webster on usurp

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