Word of the Day


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1.if a king or queen abdicates, he or she formally gives up power

2. to stop accepting a particular responsibility or obligation that you have

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The verb abdicate comes from a Latin verb whose meanings include to resign, deny or repudiate, and was first used in English in the early 16th century with a meaning that is now obsolete. The second meaning above was first used in the middle of the century, while the first meaning was not recorded until later in the century for the transitive use (to give up an office or duty) and in the early 17th century for the intransitive use. The noun was first recorded in the mid 16th century.


The abdication this week of the Emperor of Japan has drawn attention to this relatively uncommon word, which has no frequency stars in Macmillan Dictionary. When a monarch abdicates he or she gives up the throne, usually in favour of a successor. The accession of the new Emperor Naruhito to Japan’s chrysanthemum throne in place of his father Akihito was marked by solemn ceremonies and was the first abdication in that country in over 200 years. This meaning of abdicate is both transitive and intransitive: a monarch can abdicate, or can abdicate the throne or the crown. The second meaning is only transitive and the most frequent object is ‘responsibility’, although you can also abdicate duties, obligations, authority, a role or power.


“I am so anxious for you not to abdicate and I think the fact that you do is going to put me in the wrong light to the entire world because they will say that I could have prevented it.”
(Wallis Simpson, wife of Edward VIII)

“Next,” said Mrs Wilfer with a wave of her gloves, expressive of abdication under protest from the culinary throne, “I would recommend examination of the bacon in the saucepan on the fire, and also of the potatoes by the application of a fork. Preparation of the greens will further become necessary if you persist in this unseemly demeanour.”
(Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend)

Related words

depose, enthrone, reign, rule

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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