\ 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 As a result of the December 2014 incident, she was convicted for usurping a pilot’s authority and spent five months in prison. Kyunghee Park / Bloomberg, Time, "In New Scandal, South Korean 'Nut Rage' Heiress Releases Letter Criticizing Management of Family Business," 24 Dec. 2019 While opponents say current licensing regulations are ambiguous and inconsistent, supporters of the licensing regime say undoing the restrictions would usurp the authority of state boards and create additional burdens for agencies. Tracy Jan, Washington Post, "After prison, more punishment," 3 Sep. 2019 Maybe the Supreme Court is getting tired of lower courts that try to usurp its authority. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Judicial Gerrymander Rebuke," 25 May 2019 Instead, the spotlight has been usurped by new and upcoming cord-cutting services like Apple TV Plus, AT&T's HBO Max and Comcast's Peacock. CBS News, "Hulu raises prices up to 22% to $55 per month for top-tier plan," 15 Nov. 2019 Since then, the campus has been usurped by students and volunteers, transforming it into a fortress. Washington Post, "Behind the barricade, Hong Kong protesters turn a university into a fortress," 14 Nov. 2019 That gang was in turn usurped by one run by Charles Sabini, another of Peaky Blinders's recurring characters. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Who Were the Real Life Peaky Blinders Gangsters?," 3 Nov. 2019 But, there is a whole other second story line to the Disney classic: that of Sharpay Evans, who spent her life prepping for the high school musical, only to get her starring role usurped by a new girl whose priorities were elsewhere. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Twitter is Arguing That Sharpay Evans Was the Real Victim of “High School Musical” and Ashley Tisdale Just Weighed In," 17 Sep. 2019 In 2014, serious policy — the Syrian conflict featuring ISIS — was usurped by the absurdity of a suit’s color. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Five years ago: The tan suit scandal that rocked DC!," 28 Aug. 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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Time Traveler for usurp

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Usurp.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 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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dull or mediocre

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