Printable Version
Pronunciation: yu-sêrp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To take control over wrongly by the misuse of power.

Notes: This term usually takes on a political sense, to usurp someone's authority or usurp the throne. The noun is usurpation, and you have your choice of usurpative or usurpatory to do the work of adjectives. Remember that the first U is pronounced like the name of the letter, but the second one is pronounced as part of the R.

In Play: Usurp hardly seems like a household term, does it? But listen to this: "The exchange student usurped my bedroom, and now I'm sleeping in the den." You would be surprised at the places you find to use it: "The new manager usurped my corner office and moved me to a storage bin in the cellar." The choice of acquire and usurp depends entirely upon your interpretation of "misuse of power".

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin usurpare "to use illegally" from usus "use" + rapere "to seize." Rapere derives from the earlier Proto-Indo-European root, reup- "seize, snatch, grasp". In the early Germanic languages this same stem became raubo- "booty (seized property)" and ultimately German rauben "rob" and English rob. An interesting side note: somewhere along the way the Germanic root was borrowed by French, as robe with the meaning "clothing", where grabbed booty was often hidden. Much later, after losing the connection with stolen goods, the French word was borrowed back into English as our word robe.

Dr. Goodword,

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