Definition of abuse in US English:



[with object]
Pronunciation /əˈbjuz//əˈbyo͞oz/
  • 1Use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.

    ‘the judge abused his power by imposing the fines’
    • ‘Being a police officer does not mean you can abuse the power given to you.’
    • ‘Last year in Parliament, Labor's Craig Emerson accused insurance companies of abusing their market power over small smash repairers.’
    • ‘In the election of 2000, the party in effect abused the judicial power to seize the presidency for itself, and this time the attempt succeeded.’
    • ‘Before taking his own life, the gunman wrote that the judge had abused her judicial power in dismissing his medical malpractice case.’
    • ‘He is already facing impeachment over claims that he misused public money and abused his office since coming to power a year ago.’
    • ‘That does not make sense, that is not logical, and the judge has abused his powers.’
    • ‘Why shouldn't he when the judge was so obviously abusing his authority?’
    • ‘He abstains from abusing his position for power or personal gain and strongly believes in the virtue of honesty, justice, and love of truth.’
    • ‘Too many franchisors are able to abuse their market power and contractual obligations without any effective sanction under the current law.’
    • ‘Today, we understand that the era of political ignorance is over and that those in power who abuse their authority can be challenged and held liable in a court of law.’
    • ‘The list itself was prefaced with the following insight: ‘Leaders with absolute power too often abuse it.’’
    • ‘By abusing people's willingness to respond to emergencies, you make them less likely to respond to them at all.’
    • ‘He has grossly misused his position and abused his authority.’
    • ‘He abused his position of power to engage in a 3-year affair with a married woman, possibly having a baby with her.’
    • ‘The judge said Vetch had abused the trust of those who had given him a free hand to run their financial affairs.’
    • ‘Parents are abusing the new guidelines to save money on childminding.’
    • ‘Murphy said the judge had not abused the legal process, but should not have dealt with the case in the way he did.’
    • ‘Give people a little bit of power and they will abuse it.’
    • ‘Because of their unlimited power, some consuls abused their authority.’
    • ‘It's ghastly when people in positions of power abuse their privilege.’
    misuse, misapply, misemploy, mishandle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Make excessive and habitual use of (alcohol or drugs, especially illegal ones).
      • ‘It is alleged that she has continued to abuse alcohol and drugs.’
      • ‘If you have family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, you're at higher risk of the same problem.’
      • ‘In college I abused alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs socially, at parties.’
      • ‘If we can get our kids to age 21 without smoking or using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, they're almost certain to be home free.’
      • ‘A Columbia University survey shows teenage girls who date boys two or more years older are much likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.’
      • ‘Given where his life appeared to be headed, Henderson isn't sure whether it's more remarkable that he stopped abusing alcohol and drugs or won the lottery.’
      • ‘Most youngsters abuse drugs and alcohol because they are bored or for kicks and don't realise it until they are addicted.’
      • ‘She was working as a prostitute by age 15, and began abusing alcohol and drugs.’
      • ‘I overdosed on both prescription and over-the-counter drugs, abused alcohol and ruined my liver, and can't tolerate any drugs now.’
      • ‘Patients who abuse alcohol and drugs are much more likely to develop medical problems than the general population.’
      • ‘The two most commonly abused drugs were amphetamine and heroin; very few offenders mentioned other drugs.’
      • ‘Maureen denied ever using illicit drugs or abusing alcohol.’
      • ‘They are more likely than anorexics to abuse drugs and alcohol or have problems with the law.’
      • ‘Finally, an applicant should not abuse drugs or alcohol.’
      • ‘Most had personality disorders or had abused drugs or alcohol.’
      • ‘Donna, who has been working with Castleton teenagers, told Castleton community forum that youths would be less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol if they had a shelter.’
      • ‘Bulimics tend to be impulsive and more apt to abuse alcohol and drugs than average.’
      • ‘People who as toddlers learn secure emotional attachment due to good parenting don't feel the need to abuse drugs or alcohol.’
      • ‘Future research will need to include greater numbers of individuals who abuse drugs other than alcohol.’
      • ‘Now lets be quite clear on this, I think employers have a right to be protected from employees who abuse drugs and alcohol and who are unable to carry out their job properly.’
  • 2Treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

    ‘riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted’
    • ‘Married off at 11 and repeatedly abused by her husband, she fought against the officially outlawed caste system, becoming a folk hero to many and a menace to others.’
    • ‘The Rovers' barmaid is being emotionally abused in scenes that are repeated behind closed doors in homes in Greater Manchester and across the country.’
    • ‘Does Claire Baron not realise that a large percentage of the animals under their care have been abused or cruelly treated?’
    • ‘Home should be a safe place but some children are forced to watch their mother or father being regularly physically or verbally abused.’
    • ‘The two girls were torn away from their family not because their parents abused them or did not love them but because they were simply deemed too ‘stupid’ to care for them.’
    • ‘And many had themselves been the victims of violence: abused by parents, raped by boyfriends, assaulted on the street.’
    • ‘Asylum seekers can be incarcerated for years, treated like criminals and abused by staff, resulting in systematic health problems.’
    • ‘The foundation has also helped a man, who has been regularly physically abused by his wife.’
    • ‘She was charged with stealing two dogs after she had repeatedly complained that the dogs were being abused.’
    • ‘During 10 months of detention in Syria, Arar was repeatedly abused and tortured.’
    • ‘Hervey herself owns another 50 cats, many of which are injured or have been abused.’
    • ‘In many ways, a more dignified end than being forced to live as a vegetable in an old-people's home, ill-treated and abused by some uncouth attendant.’
    • ‘Detecting these injuries is important as up to 30% of children who are repeatedly abused die.’
    • ‘His difference makes him a victim, repeatedly abused and cheated.’
    • ‘We believe that wasn't sufficient, that if people were in a situation where they were at risk of violence, or being abused, that they needed immediate help.’
    • ‘After being repeatedly abused, the boy escapes, but something inside him is damaged for life.’
    • ‘He believes he will be abused and mistreated if returned to his war-torn country.’
    • ‘Traditional circuses like the Shriner's have come under fire in recent years for exploiting and abusing animals.’
    • ‘I saw children who had been repeatedly abused by loved ones or people in authority.’
    • ‘He deems all owners and jockeys to be bullies who ‘send injured horses to race and be abused by jockeys with whips.’’
    mistreat, maltreat, ill-treat, treat badly, ill-use, misuse
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Assault (someone, especially a woman or child) sexually.
      ‘he was a depraved man who had abused his two young daughters’
      • ‘She said he pointed the axe out to her in the bedroom and threatened to chop her head off and kill her three-year-old daughter Amy after first sexually abusing her.’
      • ‘What induces perpetrators from all walks of life to sexually abuse young children, even infants, often with appalling violence?’
      • ‘A company director who sexually abused a young girl for six years has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.’
      • ‘A jury was today set to start considering whether a retired senior magistrate from North Yorkshire is guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl more than 20 years ago.’
      • ‘Vicky was seven when her father began sexually abusing her.’
      • ‘One case being investigated involves a prepubescent girl who is being held prisoner in a room and repeatedly abused.’
      • ‘Both boys and girls are sexually abused, and it can happen to very young children - even babies - as well as older ones.’
      • ‘When a boy is sexually abused he suffers an assault on his body, his developing personality and on his manhood.’
      • ‘She was sexually abused as a child, she only completed grade 9, and she contracted Hepatitis C apparently while in detention.’
      • ‘He befriended the family of the girl, now aged nine, before systematically sexually abusing her over a three-year period from when she was aged about six up until two weeks before his arrest last November.’
      • ‘Until recently, it was assumed that women rarely sexually abused children, but studies now acknowledge the existence of female perpetrators.’
      • ‘In a note, she also said she was sexually abused.’
      • ‘A pensioner who sexually abused young girls has walked free from court - because he is too old and frail to go to jail.’
      • ‘A council worker is facing prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young girl 30 years ago.’
      • ‘Yes, it's a fact that far more men than women sexually abuse children.’
      • ‘My theory is that he may have been sexually abusing her.’
      • ‘In responding to my question about the men in her life she let me know, quietly, that her father had sexually abused her as a child.’
      • ‘Reports accused the soldiers of sexually abusing her.’
      • ‘Now in her 30s, between the ages of 9 and 18, Samantha was repeatedly sexually abused by her stepfather.’
      • ‘A man who sexually abused a young girl was today starting three years in jail.’
    2. 2.2abuse oneselfeuphemistic Masturbate.
      abuse oneself, practise self-abuse
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3 Use or treat in such a way as to cause damage or harm.
      ‘he had been abusing his body for years’
      • ‘It is the most abused and neglected part of your body.’
      • ‘The size of my body is proof that it's being abused.’
      • ‘This was because it had been repeatedly abused - the plastic inner doors had been kicked out of line.’
      • ‘The bible says that the body is sacred and cannot be abused.’
      • ‘A damaged individual with a history of abusing himself and others.’
      • ‘Maybe it's because I've suddenly realised that I've abused my tired old body far more than was good for it - and me.’
      • ‘If a woman is abusing her body during pregnancy, she is also abusing a distinct human being who exists inside of her and that human being has the same right as she not to be abused by another person.’
      mistreat, maltreat, ill-treat, treat badly, ill-use, misuse
      View synonyms
  • 3Speak in an insulting and offensive way to or about (someone)

    ‘the referee was abused by players from both teams’
    • ‘No sooner was he ensconced than he was verbally abused by an irate customer who had taken umbrage because he (our reader) was not wearing socks.’
    • ‘And in the tunnel after the game he sent off the Millwall goalkeeper for abusing him.’
    • ‘As an American family living here, we have been repeatedly verbally abused.’
    • ‘‘I have been verbally abused, spat on and threatened with violence on countless occasions,’ he says.’
    • ‘That is why I left the group because people were always trying to disrespect and abuse me.’
    • ‘Apparently these three people were out shopping in Toys ‘R’ Us and were verbally abused and threatened with violence by members of staff.’
    • ‘We were still going along quite well, but he was just verbally abusing me.’
    • ‘But he started throwing around exercise books and verbally abusing me.’
    • ‘I do all the housework; I practically serve you while you lie around and insult and abuse me.’
    • ‘Their sole purpose in being at the Old Head is to disrupt our business by intimidating, insulting and abusing our guests who come from all over the world.’
    • ‘‘One mental health nurse had been regularly abused and then started getting death threats,’ she said.’
    • ‘Yet, when I confronted Mr Y with my realisations, he for some reason also took offence, abused me verbally, and also tried to do the same physically.’
    • ‘You spent most of your email abusing me for claiming that the share price would go down if shareholders did not endorse the shift to the US.’
    • ‘Or Colin Montgomerie, for that matter, who is still seeking a major tournament, and has spoken about quitting the United States, because the crowds there keep abusing him.’
    • ‘But in the post-match press conference, he accused Inter's players of verbally abusing him.’
    • ‘Even for the game against Dubnica last week, there were only about 1,000 fans and some of them were abusing us.’
    • ‘I can understand the ref calling it off because he was abused.’
    • ‘Women have been regularly verbally abused and even had stones thrown at them.’
    • ‘It was great, except when it rained - or when we were abused by people in pubs.’
    • ‘A shopkeeper who has been punched in the face and repeatedly racially abused by a teenage gang, fears that his family could be the next to suffer.’
    insult, be rude to, swear at, curse, call someone names, taunt, shout at, scold, rebuke, upbraid, reprove, castigate, inveigh against, impugn, slur, revile, smear, vilify, vituperate against, slander, libel, cast aspersions on, offend, slight, disparage, denigrate, defame
    View synonyms


Pronunciation /əˈbyo͞os//əˈbjus/
  • 1The improper use of something.

    ‘alcohol abuse’
    ‘an abuse of public funds’
    • ‘The move to introduce a penalty charge could be regarded as an abuse of their dominant position.’
    • ‘This was, of course, an abuse of the disciplinary process, but it has been done many times before, without attracting attention, and amounts to little more than a breach of etiquette.’
    • ‘To suggest going back to the LRC for a third time is really an abuse of a system that is already overloaded.’
    • ‘He goes on to say that those who voted for this government never dreamt that they would countenance such an abuse of democracy.’
    • ‘Whilst it is never pleasant, it is part of the price you pay for freedom of speech (although I would argue it is an abuse of that right).’
    • ‘Counsel for the defence argued that it would be an abuse of process for the trial to go ahead, and one of its arguments was that jurors might discover the article on the Internet, and be severely prejudiced.’
    • ‘He admitted the affair but denied allegations that it was ‘inappropriate and an abuse of the doctor-patient relationship’.’
    • ‘This silence was not simply an abuse of her trust.’
    • ‘That to me is an abuse of the overall parking system at Grattan Square and is one that needs to be clamped down on by the wardens in a vigorous and uncompromising way.’
    • ‘This is, as I like to point out, an abuse of history.’
    • ‘This is clearly an abuse of the public airwaves, and I hope Americans rise up against these stations and take some action to stop this.’
    • ‘Without a detailed breakdown on how much was spent by each minister and official it is impossible to establish is there was an abuse of the system.’
    • ‘He claimed the action ‘flew in the face’ of public tendering procedures set out by the Government, and was an abuse of public funds.’
    • ‘That is totally unacceptable and an abuse of science.’
    • ‘In a letter to the committee, Mr Sherlock, who was not represented and did not attend, accepted that his behaviour was an abuse of trust and conduct unbecoming of a pharmacist.’
    • ‘He said this was an abuse of public monies and the fact there was no contribution from the business community was ‘grossly unfair.’’
    • ‘Pensioner Ann Quinlan, who lives at St Brendan's Terrace, described the situation as an abuse of civil rights.’
    • ‘As far as I'm concerned, you have to look at the circumstances to make a determination whether or not there's been an abuse of that privilege.’
    • ‘It was not an abuse of his professional position, the GMC decided, to contact the unit, meet Mr Gardner and voice his concerns, or make the allegations at a time when he was suspended.’
    • ‘It is an abuse of the system, but life is like that.’
    misuse, misapplication, misemployment, mishandling
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Unjust or corrupt practice.
      ‘protection against fraud and abuse’
      ‘human rights abuses’
      • ‘Despite the allegations of abuse, corruption, and the indictments of several officers in the unit, many credit it with keeping a lid on gang violence.’
      • ‘There is a lot of abuse, robbery, corruption, crime and theft of our wealth.’
      • ‘It enforces rules intended to reduce fraud and abuse.’
      • ‘The poet in him meant that he would be able to turn out a satire in an age of corruption and abuse, but the self-promoter in him kept him busy as a letter-writer eager to please the burgesses of Hull.’
      • ‘Because as a federal civil servant, if you're witnessing abuse and corruption, particularly in the White House, where do you go?’
      • ‘He's trying to reform a system that he inherited, which is riddled with centers of interest and some corruption and abuse.’
      • ‘Despite this, it has pledged to push on with the idea, saying it will still ‘help’ in situations where fraud and identity abuse are factors.’
      • ‘The massive corporate wave of crime, fraud and abuse rolls on, is undeterred by regular exposes in the business media itself.’
      • ‘The largest reason why women do not name the fathers of their children is not that they do not know who they are - they do - but that welfare fraud and welfare abuse is going on.’
      • ‘Most of our uncorrupt political leaders were murdered and for many Colombians the word politician is now a synonym for corruption and abuse.’
      • ‘Benefit abuse and fraud are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.’
      • ‘In working with investigators, device companies should ensure that their actions are consistent with laws intended to combat fraud and abuse.’
      • ‘He was Russia's most renowned investigative reporter, specializing in abuse and corruption by a system that could produce little else.’
      • ‘While challenging systems of abuse and corruption, community and national leaders only counter with… more systems.’
      • ‘Does it have a multi-faceted approach, including training, to fight fraud and abuse?’
      • ‘Although large by German standards of the time, Leipzig was still small enough for rumors of corruption and abuse to spread rapidly.’
      • ‘Of course, to prevent abuse and corrupt practices, lobbying activities should be carefully regulated, monitored and made transparent.’
      • ‘Surely we have to crack down on corruption and abuse, and eliminate idiocies like the direct advertising of prescription drugs to consumers.’
      • ‘The report points out that many doctors are engaging in such practices despite a well-publicized crackdown on insurance fraud and abuse.’
      • ‘This is all the more surprising considering his brutality, corruption and human rights abuses were virtually unparalleled.’
      corruption, injustice, wrongdoing, wrong, misconduct, delinquency, misdeed, misdeeds, offence, offences, crime, fault, sin
      View synonyms
  • 2Cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.

    ‘a black eye and other signs of physical abuse’
    • ‘Those of us who have spent many years in animal welfare work have often come to see the worst of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.’
    • ‘A huge volume of research exists, which shows a strong correlation between substantial animal abuse in childhood and later personal violence to humans.’
    • ‘Terrible stories of murder, abuse, violence, and trauma in the name of ragging have been reported from educational institutions all over the country once again.’
    • ‘They stress that during that time they were never subjected to abuse or violence, even in the darkest days of the conflict.’
    • ‘Trauma, abuse, neglect, violence - all these things can turn a simple child into an angry, ill-tempered, malign adult.’
    • ‘Does witnessing animal abuse ever become routine?’
    • ‘Jake would have recognized the signs of physical abuse.’
    • ‘Last year a training programme was established in the state of Nevada to teach hairdressers to spot the signs of physical abuse and to ask the appropriate questions.’
    • ‘She was held overnight for interrogation, denied food and drink, and subjected to physical abuse.’
    • ‘She was revolted at all animal exploitation and abuse.’
    • ‘It is committed to peaceful campaigns against all forms of animal abuse and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle.’
    • ‘And house-training of pets is of course not ‘natural’, but surely nobody would argue that it was tantamount to animal cruelty and abuse?’
    • ‘She looked fit and healthy, she showed no signs of any physical abuse, and she was outwardly happy.’
    • ‘Although he had seen no signs of physical abuse, the entire industry disgusted him.’
    • ‘Could it be that we oppress and kill each other so readily because our abuse and slaughter of animals has desensitized us to the suffering and death of others?’
    • ‘In West Yorkshire and Craven last year more than 6,000 complaints were investigated with 82 prosecutions for animal abuse and neglect.’
    • ‘At worst, Spencer resorted to cruel and violent physical abuse.’
    • ‘A pilot study by the police force and the SSPCA in 2000 identified for the first time clear links between animal cruelty and domestic abuse.’
    • ‘Ministers say the law, which updates existing legislation, is needed to protect animals from abuse.’
    • ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims the incident highlights animal abuse by Australian farmers.’
    mistreatment, maltreatment, ill treatment, ill use, misuse
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 Violent treatment involving sexual assault, especially on a repeated basis.
      ‘young people who have suffered sexual abuse’
      • ‘The community has a role in terms of prevention of sexual abuse and assault.’
      • ‘The allegations of child sexual abuse and molestation ruined the lives of some teachers, who were wrongfully accused.’
      • ‘And ‘gay men were six times more likely to suffer adult sexual abuse or rape’’
      • ‘More young women are becoming victims of sexual abuse and assault each day.’
      • ‘The centre was founded back in 1984 at a time when there was great resistance in society to the fact that rape and sexual abuse were a reality for many.’
      • ‘He suffered sexual abuse until he was 11, then when he was 13 he discovered the person he had called dad all his life was no blood relation.’
      • ‘He was convicted of 15 charges - some of them specimen offences - of indecent assault and more serious sexual abuse.’
      • ‘The play draws a connection between this shame and cultural silence about rape and sexual abuse.’
      • ‘I also knew my military exemption was due to expire, and I would be forced to join the army, where gay conscripts suffer violent and sexual abuse.’
      • ‘She was being treated for post traumatic stress disorder by the doctor after suffering sexual abuse.’
      • ‘There are already plenty of laws against actual rape, assault and child sexual abuse.’
      • ‘The centre provides an invaluable service in Sligo, offering a safe, confidential space for survivors of child sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault.’
      • ‘Counselling is available to any male or female, aged 12 or over, who has experienced rape or sexual abuse at any time in their lives.’
      • ‘A NEW Sexual Assault Treatment Unit to treat victims of rape and sexual abuse, should be open at Waterford Regional Hospital by late June.’
      • ‘It is clearly important to protect children against sexual abuse and molestation and to help them develop skills to avoid dangerous situations.’
      • ‘The Sligo Rape Crisis Centre know this better than most and have striven to provide a sensitive and accommodating service to those who have suffered rape or sexual abuse.’
      • ‘Sexual abuse or assault is experienced by more than two in five women and almost three out of 10 men, the report said.’
      • ‘Behaviour like assault, sexual abuse, and rape.’
      • ‘This programme contrasts the county's enthusiasm for a conservation project in Tasmania with how it reacts to subjects such as domestic violence, assault and sexual abuse.’
      • ‘The rest of the participants reported no history of sexual abuse or assault.’
      rape, sexual assault, indecent assault, sexual abuse, molestation, molesting, interference, interfering, seduction, seducing
      View synonyms
  • 3Insulting and offensive language.

    ‘waving his fists and hurling abuse at the driver’
    • ‘These complaints were not the normal tirade of abuse and insults we receive but seemed genuine.’
    • ‘An alcoholic veterinary surgeon from Yorkshire who turned up to work drunk and hurled abuse at animal lovers will now hear his fate in the New Year.’
    • ‘The incident happened at about 2.35 am when a group of drunks began hurling abuse at a handful of firefighters.’
    • ‘The sight of grown men hurling abuse at someone who had voluntarily given up a Saturday morning to referee a kids match is truly disheartening for everyone involved.’
    • ‘As a driver you suffer verbal abuse on a regular basis from drunks, druggies and even schoolchildren.’
    • ‘If somebody's hurling abuse at you, it may be better to just walk away from the situation.’
    • ‘Two weeks ago, we reported how hordes of rowdy teenagers were congregating in the library entrance hall, causing mayhem and hurling abuse at users.’
    • ‘There are no prizes for guessing what value he places on each: bourgeois is always a term of abuse, revolutionary almost always a term of approbation.’
    • ‘Now imagine all these fans hurling abuse at you.’
    • ‘It went okay but as soon as I said I had to go he began hurling abuse at me.’
    • ‘Sometimes it will be a term of endearment, sometimes a term of abuse.’
    • ‘We tend to forget pop itself was once a term of abuse and these worthies were as close to the cutting edge as it was possible to get.’
    • ‘The word ‘liberal’ was confirmed as a term of abuse.’
    • ‘My use of ‘Yanks’ recently triggered a barrage of criticism from readers suggesting the word was a term of abuse.’
    • ‘A group of 20 teenagers went on a Halloween rampage in Hockley, smashing windows, tearing down fences and hurling abuse at homeowners.’
    • ‘Monday night's meeting was dominated by members hurling abuse at the directors, including climbing on stage in an effort to shout them down.’
    • ‘Since then, we have regularly been subjected to abuse and threats have been made to kill us.’
    • ‘Yobs have thrown eggs and stones at the new library in Brewery Street while hurling abuse at readers.’
    • ‘They had long used ‘star quality’ as a term of abuse.’
    • ‘In 1992 he was prosecuted by the council in the magistrates court after hurling abuse at a member of the public.’
    insults, curses, jibes, slurs, expletives, swear words
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin abus- ‘misused’, from the verb abuti, from ab- ‘away’ (i.e. ‘wrongly’) + uti ‘to use’.