Definition of usurp in English:


Pronunciation /jʊˈzəːp//jʊˈsəːp/


[with object]
  • 1Take (a position of power or importance) illegally or by force.

    ‘Richard usurped the throne’
    • ‘She believed that the elderly lady, who seemed to govern decisions about her grandchildren's forthcoming marriages, was usurping her position in the family.’
    • ‘The Pope's quarrel with the Italian state, which had usurped his position in Rome, made it all the more necessary to reach a settlement with the French Government.’
    • ‘She usurped power from her husband and established her rule for almost two decades.’
    • ‘Her powers have been usurped by the Chief Justice and reallocated to other people.’
    • ‘There's the anecdotal phenomenon of the woman who manages to break through the glass ceiling, but kicks the ladder away so no other women can usurp her position.’
    • ‘"The court of appeal has usurped the function of the jury.’
    • ‘Under this law, local ‘communities’ have the right to usurp land from its rightful owners, which must surely count as one of the biggest infringements of property rights in the modern Anglosphere.’
    • ‘In the event the thing she most feared came about when Edward IV usurped the throne.’
    • ‘Why do you not fight while your enemy usurps your land, kills your brothers and slaps you in the face…?’
    • ‘This is not the place to detail the history of the wars and battles that occurred as the settlers usurped the ancient territories of the indigenes.’
    • ‘Someone had usurped their throne, and it was time to win it back.’
    • ‘Schools have usurped the role of parents in terms of making decisions about their children.’
    • ‘Whatever Vivian's birth, she had usurped my mother's place.’
    • ‘Dictatorship is itself a form of corruption in which individuals usurp the role of institutions.’
    • ‘Thyamis himself, rightful heir to his father's priesthood in Egypt. has had his place usurped by a younger brother.’
    • ‘Government should create and sustain the conditions in which parents can fulfill their duties to their children, but it must not usurp their position.’
    • ‘If they feel that their base is threatened or that their members, through their own actions, can usurp their power, then they can be forced to act.’
    • ‘Although part of the agreement was the rehabilitation of settlers who had usurped tribal land, there is nowhere else for them to go.’
    • ‘Otherwise stated, schools are usurping the parental role of teaching personal values to children.’
    • ‘I am not here to usurp power or win back the freedom of my people.’
    seize, take over, expropriate, take possession of, take, appropriate, steal, wrest, arrogate, commandeer, annex, assume, lay claim to
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Take the place of (someone in a position of power) illegally; supplant.
      ‘the Hanoverian dynasty had usurped the Stuarts’
      • ‘The ruler belonged to Rai dynasty, a Shudra king, who was usurped by a Brahmin named Chach.’
      • ‘Move over Blocker, you've been usurped, dethroned and pretty-much dumped as Rugby League's loosest lip.’
      • ‘His father's second wife was first in line to the usurped Ming dynasty.’
      • ‘In this version of the play, the duke and his usurping brother have been replaced by rival queens and, due to time constraints, a few characters not integral to the main plot have been dropped.’
      oust, overthrow, remove, topple, unseat, depose, dethrone, eject, dispel
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2usurp on/uponarchaic no object Encroach or infringe upon (someone's rights)
      ‘the Church had usurped upon the domain of the state’
      • ‘By transmitting the virus willingly one is usurping on others’ rights to life and happiness.’
      • ‘The Roman dictators often possessed absolute power while in office; but usually being elected for short periods of time, no one of them for ages usurped upon the rights of the people.’
      • ‘He that doth usurp upon it, the Law doth intend that he hath purposed the destruction of the Prince.’
      • ‘Some claim that the legislature has approved reforms usurping on executive power.’
      • ‘Eve, Prometheus, Pandora, and Frankenstein all try to usurp upon divine authority and all suffer the consequences.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘appropriate a right wrongfully’): from Old French usurper, from Latin usurpare ‘seize for use’.