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[yoo-surp, -zurp] /yuˈsɜrp, -ˈzɜrp/
verb (used with object)
to seize and hold (a position, office, power, etc.) by force or without legal right:
The pretender tried to usurp the throne.
to use without authority or right; employ wrongfully:
The magazine usurped copyrighted material.
verb (used without object)
to commit forcible or illegal seizure of an office, power, etc.; encroach.
Origin of usurp
1275-1325; Middle English < Latin ūsūrpāre to take possession through use, equivalent to ūsū (ablative of ūsus use (noun)) + -rp-, reduced form of -rip-, combining form of rapere to seize + -āre infinitive ending
Related forms
usurper, noun
usurpingly, adverb
nonusurping, adjective
nonusurpingly, adverb
self-usurp, verb (used without object)
unusurped, adjective
unusurping, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for usurp
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Typho was the brother of Osiris and Isis; for jealousy, and to usurp the throne, he formed a conspiration and killed his brother.

    Vestiges of the Mayas Augustus Le Plongeon
  • We are instructed by these petty experiences which usurp the hours and years.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • I accuse you of wishing to usurp the imperial crown and to render it hereditary in your family!

    The Casque's Lark Eugne Sue
  • You usurp the power that is mine, and you deliver me—me, your son—to the gallows.

    The Strolling Saint Raphael Sabatini
  • A tobogging-slide seemed to usurp the greater part of the garden.

    Forty Thousand Miles Over Land and Water Lady (Ethel Gwendoline [Moffatt]) Vincent
  • Lastly, he bethought him of the man whose power he was bidden to usurp.

    Love-at-Arms Raphael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for usurp


to seize, take over, or appropriate (land, a throne, etc) without authority
Derived Forms
usurpation, noun
usurpative, usurpatory, adjective
usurper, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French usurper, from Latin ūsūrpāre to take into use, probably from ūsus use + rapere to seize
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 usurp

early 14c., from Old French usurper, from Latin usurpare "make use of, seize for use," in Late Latin "to assume unlawfully," from usus "a use" (see use) + rapere "to seize" (see rapid). Related: Usurped; usurping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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