- 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
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for abuse
These were cops who had worked the protests and suffered the accompanying verbal taunts and abuse.Shot Down During the NYPD Slowdown
January 7, 2015
When they get someone high profile, like the governor [Bob McDonnell] or like Teresa, they will abuse their positions.How a ‘Real Housewife’ Survives Prison: ‘I Don’t See [Teresa Giudice] Having a Cakewalk Here’
January 6, 2015
Perhaps one of the most egregious examples is the abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws.Are Police Stealing People’s Property?
Joan Blades, Matt Kibbe
January 2, 2015
Law is essential to freedom because it safeguards citizens against misconduct and abuse.Red Tape Is Strangling Good Samaritans
Philip K. Howard
December 27, 2014
In 2008, he was arrested for reporting about the abuse of prisoners in Syrian jails.Behind Bars for the Holidays: 11 Political Prisoners We Want to See Free In 2015
December 25, 2014
Let us rejoice that one such partisan was now at hand to stem the torrent of abuse.The Spenders
Harry Leon Wilson
Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are failures of love.
Oh, Whizzer, you poor fellow, why do you let him abuse you so?Chip, of the Flying U
B. M. Bower
That would have been an abuse of our treaties, and unworthy of your character.The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
Yes, they have good times, their freedom is large, and they do not abuse it.American Notes
- to use incorrectly or improperly; misuse
- to maltreat, esp physically or sexually
- to speak insultingly or cruelly to; revile
- (reflexive) to masturbate
- improper, incorrect, or excessive use; misuse
- maltreatment of a person; injury
- insulting, contemptuous, or coarse speech
- an evil, unjust, or corrupt practice
- See child abuse
- archaic a deception
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.).
- To use wrongly or improperly; misuse.
- To hurt or injure physically by maltreatment.
- To force sexual activity on; rape or molest.
- To assail with contemptuous, coarse, or insulting words; revile.
- Improper use or handling, as of a drug; misuse.
- Physical maltreatment, as of a spouse or child.
- The forcing of unwanted sexual activity by one person on another.
- Sexual activity that is deemed improper or harmful, as between an adult and a minor or with a person of diminished mental capacity.
- Insulting or coarse language.