abuse

1 of 2

noun

1
: a corrupt practice or custom
the buying of votes and other election abuses
2
: improper or excessive use or treatment : misuse
drug abuse
3
: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
verbal abuse
a term of abuse
4
: physical maltreatment
child abuse
sexual abuse
5
obsolete : a deceitful act : deception

abuse

2 of 2

verb

abused; abusing

transitive verb

1
a
: to put to a wrong or improper use
abuse a privilege
b
: to use excessively
abuse alcohol
also : to use without medical justification
abusing painkillers
2
: to use or treat so as to injure or damage : maltreat
abused his wife
3
: to attack in words : revile
verbally abused the referee
4
obsolete : deceive
abusable adjective
abuser noun
Choose the Right Synonym for abuse

abuse, vituperation, invective, obloquy, billingsgate 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

vituperation implies fluent and sustained abuse.

a torrent of vituperation

invective implies a comparable vehemence but suggests greater verbal and rhetorical skill and may apply to a public denunciation.

blistering political invective

obloquy suggests defamation and consequent shame and disgrace.

subjected to obloquy and derision

billingsgate implies practiced fluency and variety of profane or obscene abuse.

directed a stream of billingsgate at the cabdriver

Example Sentences

Noun He subjected his wife to physical and emotional abuse. the buying of votes and other election abuses She was subjected to every term of abuse her boss could think of. a torrent of verbal abuse The prisoner hurled abuse at the judge. Verb He was accused of sexually abusing a child. He abused his body with years of heavy drinking. He had abused his first car by not taking care of it. She abused her friend's trust. a senator who abuses his power He abused my confidence by letting this secret be known. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The disgraced actor was first accused of psychological abuse and rape from previous romantic partners in 2021. Elise Brisco, USA TODAY, 5 Feb. 2023 Hammer said his interest in BDSM stemmed from that abuse. Nicholas Rice, Peoplemag, 4 Feb. 2023 Air Mail reported that the Social Network star spoke about his childhood abuse with an older friend, who has since died, and with his godmother, Candace Garvey, who confirmed Hammer's account. Emlyn Travis, EW.com, 4 Feb. 2023 These children also were susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts and were likely to commit violence, the study said. Justin Gamble, CNN, 4 Feb. 2023 The University of California’s California Policy Lab analyzed surveys of 64,000 people who were homeless across 15 different states and found that 78% of the unsheltered homeless suffered from mental illness and 75% from a substance abuse disorder. Katherine Drabiak, The Conversation, 3 Feb. 2023 The woman who spoke on Friday afternoon asserted that the industry needs to develop better practices and reporting structures to stop abuse. Elizabeth Wagmeister, Variety, 3 Feb. 2023 The chatbot’s creator, OpenAI, even unveiled a tool to detect text generated by artificial intelligence to prevent abuse from cheaters, spammers and others. Josh Zumbrun, WSJ, 3 Feb. 2023 Still, advocates and attorneys argue that the system for helping domestic violence victims and prosecuting them for violent crimes that stem from that abuse still needs work. Kyla Milberger, ABC News, 3 Feb. 2023
Verb
So New York got rid of its robot because some people didn't trust the police not to abuse the technology. Philip Martin, Arkansas Online, 10 Jan. 2023 That’s how Apple makes sure people do not abuse the feature. Chris Smith, BGR, 3 Jan. 2023 This door has been open for tech companies of all stripes to abuse in similar fashion. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 7 Jan. 2023 Intention to abuse and control can transform luddites into experts. Andrea Gunraj, WIRED, 11 Oct. 2022 Other companies might still abuse iPhone data to harvest information about you for targeted ads. Chris Smith, BGR, 11 Dec. 2022 That many states abuse their powers only underscores why the liberal and politically responsible states must build up national strength. WSJ, 21 Oct. 2022 But did DiMaggio actually abuse Monroe physically or emotionally? Paul Schrodt, Men's Health, 10 Oct. 2022 Did Marilyn Monroe’s husband, Joe DiMaggio, abuse her? Lauren Puckett-pope, ELLE, 29 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abuse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin abūsus "misuse, waste," noun derivative from abūtī "to exhaust, use up, misuse," from ab- ab- + ūtī "to use entry 1"

Verb

Middle English abusen, borrowed from Anglo-French abuser, verbal derivative of abuse abuse entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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

Dictionary Entries Near abuse

Cite this Entry

“Abuse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abuse. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

abuse

1 of 2 verb
abused; abusing
1
a
: to use wrongly : misuse
abuse a privilege
b
: to use excessively
abuse alcohol
2
: to treat cruelly : mistreat
abuse a dog
3
: to attack in words : scold rudely
abuser noun

abuse

2 of 2 noun
1
: a corrupt practice or custom
election abuses
2
a
: improper or excessive use or treatment : misuse
abuse of privileges
drug abuse
b
: physical mistreatment
3
: harsh insulting language

Medical Definition

abuse

1 of 2 noun
1
: improper or excessive use or treatment
drug abuse
long-term abuse of tranquilizers
2
: physical maltreatment: as
a
: the act of violating sexually : rape
b
under some statutes : rape or indecent assault not amounting to rape

abuse

2 of 2 transitive verb
abused; abusing
1
: to use excessively
abuse alcohol
also : to use without medical justification
abusing painkillers
2
: to treat so as to injure or damage
abuse a child
3
b
: to subject to abuse and especially to rape or indecent assault
abusable adjective
abuser noun

Legal Definition

abuse

1 of 2 transitive verb
abused; abusing
1
: to put to a use other than the one intended: as
a
: to put to a bad or unfair use
abusing the powers of office
b
: to put to improper or excessive use
abuse narcotics
2
a
: to inflict physical or emotional mistreatment or injury on (as one's child) purposely or through negligence or neglect and often on a regular basis
b
: to engage in sexual activity with (a child under an age specified by statute)
3
: to attack harshly with words
abuse a police officer
abuse a debtor
abuser noun

abuse

2 of 2 noun
1
: improper, unfair, or excessive use
abuse of authority
drug abuse
2
a
: the infliction of physical or emotional injury
also : the crime of inflicting such injury see also battered child syndrome, battered woman's syndrome compare cruelty, neglect
3
: a verbal attack (as on a police officer in the performance of his or her duty)
also : the crime of making such an attack

More from Merriam-Webster on abuse

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