\ 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 usurp (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 But now, human hybridizers are stepping in to usurp the role of the bee, carefully removing the pollen of one plant to fertilize another. Washington Post, "The iconic white snowdrop could be getting a new look (or many), thanks to breeders," 18 Mar. 2021 Beyond the cup and Sunday’s presidential election, Barca also have faith in being able to usurp Atletico Madrid at the La Liga summit. Tom Sanderson, Forbes, "FC Barcelona’s Stars Believe They Can Pull Off An Amazing Double Title Win," 1 Mar. 2021 Among Wagner’s clients was Osorio, who in July began a covert campaign to usurp the same board that couldn’t be bothered to respond quickly to his emergency. Matthew Sedacca, Curbed, "‘They’re Off in Long Island, and Don’t Give a Sh*t’: Co-op Boards Ghost Their Residents," 20 Jan. 2021 Many feared Trump would try to encourage the Republican legislative leaders to usurp the will of the majority of voters in Michigan and in some way deliver the state's electoral votes to him. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan GOP leaders say COVID-19 assistance, not election, focus of White House meeting," 20 Nov. 2020 Those who oppose multiracial democracy will try again to usurp it, and those who support it should be ready. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Dangerous Historical Precedent for Ted Cruz’s Shameless Electoral College Gambit," 5 Jan. 2021 Their game is to delay the vote certifications and rile up the MAGA base, which can then be mobilized to put pressure on Republican state legislatures to usurp the voters and appoint slates of Trump loyalists to the Electoral College. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Rudy Giuliani Is a Hot Mess," 20 Nov. 2020 The Lions are four wins away from their fourth straight state championship, and the Eagles are trying to usurp them. Adam Lichtenstein,, "High school football predictions in Broward, Palm Beach counties as season turns for home stretch," 18 Nov. 2020 Republicans accountable, a more inclusive and diverse political landscape that would usurp old white Democratic leadership, to name a few — but one reason is abundantly clear: AOC is right. Danielle Campoamor,, "She’s One Of Politics’ Rising Stars, But Here’s Why AOC Wasn’t Sure She Would Run For A Second Term," 9 Nov. 2020

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

3 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Usurp.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for usurp



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

Nglish: Translation of usurp for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of usurp for Arabic Speakers

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