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[v. uh-byooz; n. uh-byoos] /v. əˈbyuz; n. əˈbyus/
verb (used with object), abused, abusing.
to use wrongly or improperly; misuse:
to abuse one's authority.
to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way:
to abuse a horse; to abuse one's eyesight.
to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign.
to commit sexual assault upon.
Obsolete. to deceive or mislead.
wrong or improper use; misuse:
the abuse of privileges.
harshly or coarsely insulting language:
The officer heaped abuse on his men.
bad or improper treatment; maltreatment:
The child was subjected to cruel abuse.
a corrupt or improper practice or custom:
the abuses of a totalitarian regime.
rape or sexual assault.
Obsolete, deception.
abuse oneself, to masturbate.
Origin of abuse
late Middle English
1400-50; (v.) late Middle English abusen < Middle French abuser, verbal derivative of abus < Latin abūsus misuse, wasting, equivalent to abūt(ī) to use up, misuse (ab- ab- + ūtī to use) + -tus suffix of v. action; (noun) late Middle English abus < Middle French abus or Latin abūsus
Related forms
[uh-byoo-zuh-buh l] /əˈbyu zə bəl/ (Show IPA),
abuser, noun
antiabuse, adjective
overabuse, noun, verb (used with object), overabused, overabusing.
unabusable, adjective
unabused, adjective
1. misapply. 2. ill-use, maltreat, injure, harm, hurt. 3. vilify, vituperate, berate, scold; slander, defame, calumniate, traduce. 6. misapplication. 7. slander, aspersion. Abuse, censure, invective all mean strongly expressed disapproval. Abuse implies an outburst of harsh and scathing words against another (often one who is defenseless): abuse directed against an opponent. Censure implies blame, adverse criticism, or hostile condemnation: severe censure of acts showing bad judgment. Invective applies to strong but formal denunciation in speech or print, often in the public interest: invective against graft.
3, 7. praise. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for abuse
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • abuse, cruelty, outrage, accumulated on the heads of the poor Aleuts.

    Vikings of the Pacific Agnes C. Laut
  • Oh, Whizzer, you poor fellow, why do you let him abuse you so?

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • If the question were resolutely faced, the abuse could be stopped.

    Rebuilding Britain Alfred Hopkinson
  • That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your character.

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • Yf they had an Alexander to govern they shold be punished, and I could wish them not to abuse the lenitie of their prince.

British Dictionary definitions for abuse


verb (transitive) (əˈbjuːz)
to use incorrectly or improperly; misuse
to maltreat, esp physically or sexually
to speak insultingly or cruelly to; revile
(reflexive) to masturbate
noun (əˈbjuːs)
improper, incorrect, or excessive use; misuse
maltreatment of a person; injury
insulting, contemptuous, or coarse speech
an evil, unjust, or corrupt practice
(archaic) a deception
Derived Forms
abuser, noun
Word Origin
c14 (vb): via Old French from Latin abūsus, past participle of abūtī to misuse, from ab-1 + ūtī to use
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for abuse

early 15c., "to misuse, misapply," from Middle French abuser, from Vulgar Latin *abusare, from Latin abusus "an abusing, using up," past participle of abuti "use up," also "misuse," from ab- "away" (see ab-) + uti "use" (see use). Of sexual situations from early 15c., but originally incest, homosexuality, prostitution, etc.; meaning "to misuse sexually, ravish" is from 1550s. Specifically of drugs, from 1968. Related: Abused; abusing.


mid-15c., "improper practice," from Old French abus (14c.), from Latin abusus (see abuse (v.)). Earlier in Middle English was abusion "wicked act or practice, shameful thing, violation of decency" (early 14c.), "an insult" (mid-14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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abuse in Medicine

abuse a·buse (ə-byōōz')
v. a·bused, a·bus·ing, a·bus·es

  1. To use wrongly or improperly; misuse.

  2. To hurt or injure physically by maltreatment.

  3. To assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words; revile.

n. (ə-byōōs')
  1. Improper use or handling, as of a drug; misuse.

  2. Physical maltreatment, as of a spouse or child.

  3. Insulting or coarse language.

a·bus'er n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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