verb (used with object), a·bused, a·bus·ing.
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What does abuse mean?
Warning: This article involves discussion of the sensitive topics of physical and emotional abuse and substance abuse. If you or someone you know needs support, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline site to chat or call the hotline at 1-800-799-7233. For support with substance abuse, call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
The verb abuse most commonly means to mistreat and cause harm to a person or an animal.
The noun abuse refers to such mistreatment. The victim of the abuse or the kind of abuse is often specified before the word, as in child abuse, spousal abuse, animal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.
A person who abuses someone can be called an abuser, and such a person is said to be abusive.
Abuse can also be used as a verb meaning to misuse something or as a noun meaning misuse—referring to the overuse or improper use of things. This sense of the word is especially seen in the phrases alcohol abuse, drug abuse, substance abuse, and abuse of power.
As a verb, abuse is pronounced uh-BYOOZ. As a noun, it’s pronounced uh-BYOOS. This same pronunciation pattern is seen in the verb and noun forms of the word use (which rhyme with the verb and noun forms of abuse, respectively).
Example: Just because it’s not physical doesn’t mean it’s not abuse—emotional abuse can leave its own scars.
Where does abuse come from?
The first records of the word abuse come from the 1400s. It comes from the Latin abūsus, from the Latin verb abūtī, meaning “to misuse.” The prefix ab- means “outside of” or “opposite to.”
We often think of abuse as a repeated behavior, and it often is, but even a single instance of mistreatment qualifies as abuse. Unfortunately, abuse can happen in many forms, and those forms are often specified along with the word.
When abuse is used to refer to misuse of something (as opposed to the mistreatment of someone), it’s often associated with seriously negative behavior, like alcohol abuse (which refers to the overconsumption of alcohol, often due to addiction). However, both the noun and verb can be applied to less serious situations, as in My kids abuse their shoes so much that I have to buy them a new pair every few months.
When the plural abuses is used, it often has a slightly different meaning. When we talk about the abuses of a government or organization, we typically use the word to mean “corrupt or improper practices.”
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What are some other forms related to abuse?
- abuser (noun)
- abused (adjective, noun)
- abusive (adjective)
What are some synonyms for abuse?
What are some words that share a root or word element with abuse?
What are some words that often get used in discussing abuse?
How is abuse used in real life?
Abuse is always used negatively, and discussions about abuse are usually very serious.
Paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale's prison term extended for sexual abuse of boys in 1970s https://t.co/Qh0ibQtyIS
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 14, 2020
Every citizen can step up to oppose abuse of power, since power is granted by the people. Withholding information and giving out erroneous information, and hypnotizing the public to make choices against its own interest, is not informed consent; it is psychological manipulation.
— Bandy X Lee, MD, MDiv (@BandyXLee1) May 14, 2020
If you or someone you know are suffering domestic abuse you can access help and advice herehttps://t.co/mgvLVKjQO0
Including support organisations and reporting options#domesticabuse
— West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (@WestYorksOPCC) May 19, 2020
Example sentences from the Web for abuse
When it paused the service earlier this year, the company said it was investigating reports of abuse, especially from malware groups.
Regular testing can help the department identify officers with substance abuse issues as well.The policing reforms in the Breonna Taylor settlement, explained|Fabiola Cineas|September 17, 2020|Vox
She said the lead agency into the woman’s allegations is now the Justice Department’s Inspector General, which oversees accusations of civil rights abuses.ICE Deported a Woman Who Accused Guards of Sexual Assault While the Feds Were Still Investigating the Incident|by Lomi Kriel|September 15, 2020|ProPublica
What I do know from the research that’s out there on abuse and abusers is that there’s a range of, I’d say of levels of denial that they are in … but I haven’t done any interviews.Can Anita Hill Forgive Joe Biden … and Work With Him?|Pallabi Munsi|September 14, 2020|Ozy
In 2018, for example, Facebook was slow to act on misinformation spreading in Myanmar that ultimately led to human rights abuses.AI ethics groups are repeating one of society’s classic mistakes|Amy Nordrum|September 14, 2020|MIT Technology Review
These were cops who had worked the protests and suffered the accompanying verbal taunts and abuse.
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’|Michael Howard|January 6, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Perhaps one of the most egregious examples is the abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws.
Law is essential to freedom because it safeguards citizens against misconduct and abuse.
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|Movements.Org|December 25, 2014|DAILY BEAST
You ought to avoid entirely such a procedure in this last class of cases; for it is an abuse of the genuine purpose of Dialectic.Aristotle|George Grote
May not this practice be justly regarded as an abuse of the asylum?On the State of Lunacy and the Legal Provision for the Insane|John T. Arlidge
The obligation was mutual, that the host should give hospitality, and that the guest should not abuse it.
He had been prepared for abuse, but not for impenetrable silence.One Day's Courtship|Robert Barr
A more flagrant case of abuse of church funds, so far as the principle was concerned, could hardly be imagined.Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam|Ephraim Emerton