Synonyms & Antonyms of abuse

(Entry 1 of 2)



Synonyms & Antonyms of abuse (Entry 2 of 2)

1 to inflict physical or emotional harm upon
  • if you abuse your pet, he will always have an ugly disposition

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2 to criticize harshly and usually publicly
  • a demanding, difficult patient who constantly abuses the nurses and aides

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3 to put to a bad or improper use
  • if you abuse your baseball bat by using it to hammer nails, don't expect it to last long

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4 to take unfair advantage of
  • abused his parents' trust, pilfering small amounts from them that he hoped they wouldn't notice

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See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About abuse

How is the word abuse distinct from other similar nouns?

Some common synonyms of abuse are billingsgate, invective, obloquy, and vituperation. While all these words mean "vehemently expressed condemnation or disapproval," abuse, the most general term, usually implies the anger of the speaker and stresses the harshness of the language.

scathing verbal abuse

When might billingsgate be a better fit than abuse?

While in some cases nearly identical to abuse, billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse.

directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver

When would invective be a good substitute for abuse?

In some situations, the words invective and abuse are roughly equivalent. However, invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation.

blistering political invective

When is obloquy a more appropriate choice than abuse?

While the synonyms obloquy and abuse are close in meaning, obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace.

subjected to obloquy and derision

Where would vituperation be a reasonable alternative to abuse?

The words vituperation and abuse can be used in similar contexts, but vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse.

a torrent of vituperation

Learn More About abuse

Time Traveler for abuse

Time Traveler

The first known use of abuse was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Abuse.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on abuse

Nglish: Translation of abuse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of abuse for Arabic Speakers


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