Definition of abuse in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈbjuːz/
[with object]
1Use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse: the judge abused his power by imposing the fines
More example sentences
  • In the election of 2000, the party in effect abused the judicial power to seize the presidency for itself, and this time the attempt succeeded.
  • He is already facing impeachment over claims that he misused public money and abused his office since coming to power a year ago.
  • That does not make sense, that is not logical, and the judge has abused his powers.
exploit, pervert, take advantage of
1.1Make excessive and habitual use of (alcohol or drugs, especially illegal ones): at various times in her life she abused both alcohol and drugs
More example sentences
  • If we can get our kids to age 21 without smoking or using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, they're almost certain to be home free.
  • In college I abused alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs socially, at parties.
  • The two most commonly abused drugs were amphetamine and heroin; very few offenders mentioned other drugs.
2Treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly: riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted
More example sentences
  • Married off at 11 and repeatedly abused by her husband, she fought against the officially outlawed caste system, becoming a folk hero to many and a menace to others.
  • During 10 months of detention in Syria, Arar was repeatedly abused and tortured.
  • The foundation has also helped a man, who has been regularly physically abused by his wife.
handle/treat roughly, knock about/around, manhandle, mishandle, maul, molest, interfere with, indecently assault, sexually abuse, sexually assault, grope, assault, hit, strike, beat;
injure, hurt, harm, damage;
wrong, bully, persecute, oppress, torture
informal beat up, rough up, do over
2.1Assault (someone, especially a woman or child) sexually: he was a depraved man who had abused his two young daughters (as adjective abused) abused children
More example sentences
  • A council worker is facing prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young girl 30 years ago.
  • A company director who sexually abused a young girl for six years has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
  • A pensioner who sexually abused young girls has walked free from court - because he is too old and frail to go to jail.
2.2 (abuse oneself) euphemistic Masturbate.
2.3Use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm: he had been abusing his body for years
More example sentences
  • Maybe it's because I've suddenly realised that I've abused my tired old body far more than was good for it - and me.
  • A damaged individual with a history of abusing himself and others.
  • If a woman is abusing her body during pregnancy, she is also abusing a distinct human being who exists inside of her and that human being has the same right as she not to be abused by another person.
3Speak to (someone) in an insulting and offensive way: the referee was abused by players from both teams
More example sentences
  • I do all the housework; I practically serve you while you lie around and insult and abuse me.
  • But in the post-match press conference, he accused Inter's players of verbally abusing him.
  • Their sole purpose in being at the Old Head is to disrupt our business by intimidating, insulting and abusing our guests who come from all over the world.
insult, be rude to, swear at, curse, call someone names, taunt, shout at, scold, rebuke, upbraid, reprove, castigate, inveigh against, impugn, slur, revile, smear, vilify, vituperate against, slander, libel, cast aspersions on, offend, slight, disparage, denigrate, defame
British informal slag off
North American informal trash-talk
archaic miscall


Pronunciation: /əˈbjuːs/
[mass noun]
1The improper use of something: alcohol abuse [count noun]: an abuse of public funds
More example sentences
  • This is, as I like to point out, an abuse of history.
  • He claimed the action ‘flew in the face’ of public tendering procedures set out by the Government, and was an abuse of public funds.
  • He said this was an abuse of public monies and the fact there was no contribution from the business community was ‘grossly unfair.’
exploitation, perversion
1.1Unjust or corrupt practice: protection against fraud and abuse [count noun]: human rights abuses
More example sentences
  • Of course, to prevent abuse and corrupt practices, lobbying activities should be carefully regulated, monitored and made transparent.
  • There is a lot of abuse, robbery, corruption, crime and theft of our wealth.
  • The massive corporate wave of crime, fraud and abuse rolls on, is undeterred by regular exposes in the business media itself.
corruption, injustice, wrongdoing, wrong, misconduct, delinquency, misdeed(s), offence(s), crime, fault, sin
2Cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal: a black eye and other signs of physical abuse
More example sentences
  • At worst, Spencer resorted to cruel and violent physical abuse.
  • A pilot study by the police force and the SSPCA in 2000 identified for the first time clear links between animal cruelty and domestic abuse.
  • Last year a training programme was established in the state of Nevada to teach hairdressers to spot the signs of physical abuse and to ask the appropriate questions.
rough treatment, manhandling, mishandling, molestation, interference, indecent assault, sexual abuse, sexual assault, assaulting, hitting, striking, beating;
injury, hurt, harm, damage;
wronging, bullying, persecution, oppression, torture
2.1Violent treatment involving sexual assault, especially on a regular basis: young people who have suffered sexual abuse
More example sentences
  • Behaviour like assault, sexual abuse, and rape.
  • Sexual abuse or assault is experienced by more than two in five women and almost three out of 10 men, the report said.
  • The community has a role in terms of prevention of sexual abuse and assault.
3Insulting and offensive language: waving his fists and hurling abuse at the driver
More example sentences
  • My use of ‘Yanks’ recently triggered a barrage of criticism from readers suggesting the word was a term of abuse.
  • These complaints were not the normal tirade of abuse and insults we receive but seemed genuine.
  • There are no prizes for guessing what value he places on each: bourgeois is always a term of abuse, revolutionary almost always a term of approbation.
swearing, cursing, name-calling, scolding;
informal slanging, a slanging match, mud-slinging, disrespect
British informal verbal(s)
North American informal trash talk
archaic contumely


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin abus- 'misused', from the verb abuti, from ab- 'away' (i.e. 'wrongly') + uti 'to use'.

  • usual from Middle English:

    The English words use and usual are both medieval and derived from Latin usus ‘a use’. People have used drugs or been drug users since the late 1920s, although they could equally be said to abuse (Late Middle English), ‘use in the wrong way’, them. User-friendly is recorded since 1977. The Usual Suspects is the title of a film released in 1995. It comes from a line in the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca (1942): ‘Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.’ Utility (Late Middle English) is from the same root.

Words that rhyme with abuse

abstruse, adduce, Ballets Russes, Belarus, Bruce, burnous, caboose, charlotte russe, conduce, deduce, deuce, diffuse, douce, educe, excuse, goose, induce, introduce, juice, Larousse, loose, luce, misuse, moose, mousse, noose, obtuse, Palouse, produce, profuse, puce, recluse, reduce, Rousse, seduce, sluice, Sousse, spruce, traduce, truce, use, vamoose, Zeus

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: abuse

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