[noun mis-yoos; verb mis-yooz]
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verb (used with object), mis·used, mis·us·ing.
  1. to use wrongly or improperly; misapply.
  2. to treat badly or abusively; maltreat.

Origin of misuse

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at mis-1, use

Synonyms for misuse

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for misuse

Contemporary Examples of misuse

Historical Examples of misuse

  • Of little worth as life is when we misuse it, it is worth that effort.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • We found they knew, alas, too much about the misuse of everything growing in the field!

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael

  • They were provided thee; all that thou hast created is misuse!

    The Golden Fountain

    Lilian Staveley

  • In fine, we owe the success of this trick to the misuse of fine emotions.

  • And the only way of learning how to use properly a thing is through its misuse.

    My Reminiscences

    Rabindranath Tagore

British Dictionary definitions for misuse


noun (ˌmɪsˈjuːs) misusage
  1. erroneous, improper, or unorthodox usemisuse of words
  2. cruel or inhumane treatment
verb (ˌmɪsˈjuːz) (tr)
  1. to use wrongly
  2. to treat badly or harshly
  3. to use (something, esp alcohol, drugs, etc) improperly
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

Word Origin and History for misuse

late 14c., "to use improperly;" see mis- (1) + use (v.). Meaning "to subject to ill-treatment" is attested from 1530s. Related: Misused; misusing.


late 14c., from mis- (1) + use (n.). It aligns with the older sense of the verb misuse.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper