[yoo-surp, -zurp]

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 formsu·surp·er, nounu·surp·ing·ly, adverbnon·u·surp·ing, adjectivenon·u·surp·ing·ly, adverbself-u·surp, verb (used without object)un·u·surped, adjectiveun·u·surp·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for usurp

Contemporary Examples of usurp

  • The Constitutional Court is “absolutely part of the old guard trying to usurp power,” he tells The Daily Beast.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Thailand: Into the Void

    Lennox Samuels

    March 21, 2014

  • But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

  • Makes you wonder why conservatives care so much who sits on the Supreme Court—since they seem determined to usurp its job.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Tea Party's Blind Spot

    Peter Beinart

    January 4, 2011

  • “It would be very difficult for her to come out and usurp power at this point,” he said.

    The Daily Beast logo
    North Korea's 'Evil' Sister

    Philip Shenon

    September 28, 2010

Historical Examples of usurp

  • We are instructed by these petty experiences which usurp the hours and years.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • You usurp the power that is mine, and you deliver me—me, your son—to the gallows.

    The Strolling Saint

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Lastly, he bethought him of the man whose power he was bidden to usurp.


    Raphael Sabatini

  • Who was to usurp my place at table, in my bed-room, and in my mother's heart?

    Debts of Honor

    Maurus Jkai

  • I have allowed you to usurp the rule, to reverse our natural positions.

British Dictionary definitions for usurp



to seize, take over, or appropriate (land, a throne, etc) without authority
Derived Formsusurpation, nounusurpative or usurpatory, adjectiveusurper, noun

Word Origin for usurp

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

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