suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) , sometimes -fə-rij \

Definition of suffrage

1 : a short intercessory prayer usually in a series
2 : a vote given in deciding a controverted question or electing a person for an office or trust
3 : the right of voting : franchise also : the exercise of such right

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Synonyms & Antonyms for suffrage

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Why would a 17th-century writer warn people that a chapel was only for "private or secret suffrages"? Because in addition to the meanings listed above, "suffrage" has been used since the 14th century to mean "prayer" (especially a prayer requesting divine help or intercession). So how did "suffrage" come to mean "a vote" or "the right to vote"? To answer that, we must look to the word’s Latin ancestor, suffragium, which can be translated as "vote," "support," or "prayer." That term produced descendants in a number of languages, and English picked up its senses of "suffrage" from two different places. We took the "prayer" sense from a Middle French suffragium offspring that emphasized the word’s spiritual aspects, and we elected to adopt the "voting" senses directly from the original Latin.

Examples of suffrage in a Sentence

women who fought for suffrage even as the world entered the 21st century, some nations still did not permit women's suffrage
Recent Examples on the Web Despite this fact, their contributions were largely ignored and overlooked, with Black women having to march separately from their white counterparts at suffrage parades. Janice Gassam Asare, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 The period's grandest moments -- the abolition of racial slavery, birthright citizenship, and Black male suffrage -- represent nothing less than what Eric Foner has called a second American founding. Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, 6 Oct. 2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune and the Women’s Museum of California are celebrating a century of female achievement in San Diego to mark the 101st year of women’s suffrage in America. San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Sep. 2021 Bills to restore suffrage to 28 people were filed this year. Arkansas Online, 23 Sep. 2021 From female suffrage in the United States and Britain to new, less confining styles of dress throughout the West, women enjoyed an unprecedented degree of liberation. BostonGlobe.com, 19 Aug. 2021 The state that birthed the women’s suffrage movement has never elected a woman as governor, or mayor of New York City. Charlotte Alter, Time, 30 Sep. 2021 Actresses from Women in History will present the program that will offer a candid conversation reflecting the women’s passion and influence on the suffrage movement. Carol Kovach, cleveland, 27 Sep. 2021 Ocasio-Cortez's choice of white echoed the long history of American congresswomen wearing the shade in reference to the women's suffrage movement. CNN, 13 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'suffrage.' 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 suffrage

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for suffrage

Middle English, "help, aid, intercessory prayer, indulgence," borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin suffrāgium "vote, selection, aid, support, intercessory prayer," going back to Latin, "vote cast in an assembly, right to vote, decision reached by a vote, influence exerted in support of a candidate or policy," from suffrāgor, suffrāgārī "to express public support (for a candidate, measure, etc.), be favorable (toward)" (from suf-, assimilated form of sub- sub- + -frāg-, probably from the base of frangere, past participle frāctus, "to break, shatter") + -ium, deverbal suffix of function or state — more at break entry 1

Note: Senses of suffrage having to do with voting were borrowed directly from classical Latin from the 16th century onward. The older literal meaning of Latin suffrāgārī that presumably underlies the attested senses having to do with political support and voting is obscure. Though the identity of suf- is clear, the element -frāg- has been subject to varying analyses. The most commonly accepted view sees -frāg- —despite the unexpected vowel length—as representing the verb frangere, though the import is not obvious. The idea that the reference is to the use of broken pieces of tile or pottery in voting is unlikely in view of what is known of earlier Roman election practices; moreover, the primary meaning of the verb suffrāgārī is more oriented toward support of a candidate than the mechanics of voting. In a revival of an older analysis Jyri Vaahtera connects -frāg- with the noun fragor "noise of breaking, crash, noisy clamor, shouting," and assumes that the verb alluded to the noise of an armed assembly banging weapons as a sign of acclamation (see "The origin of Latin suffrāgium," Glotta, vol. 61 [1993], pp. 66-80.)

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

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Dictionary Entries Near suffrage

suffraganship

suffrage

suffragette

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Last Updated

15 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Suffrage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suffrage. Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for suffrage

suffrage

noun

English Language Learners Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote in an election

suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) \

Kids Definition of suffrage

: the right to vote

suffrage

noun
suf·​frage | \ ˈsə-frij How to pronounce suffrage (audio) \

Legal Definition of suffrage

1 : a vote in deciding a controverted question or the choice of a person for an office or trust no State…shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the SenateU.S. Constitution art. V
2 : the right of voting : franchise also : the exercise of such right

History and Etymology for suffrage

Latin suffragium vote, political support, from suffragari to support with one's vote

More from Merriam-Webster on suffrage

Nglish: Translation of suffrage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of suffrage for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about suffrage

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