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Etymology 1[edit]


abject ‎(comparative abjecter or more abject, superlative abjectest or most abject)

  1. (obsolete) Rejected; cast aside. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the early 17th century.][2]
  2. Sunk to or existing in a low condition, state, or position. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][2]
  3. Cast down in spirit or hope; degraded; servile; grovelling; despicable; lacking courage; offered in a humble and often ingratiating spirit. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][2]
    • (Can we date this quote?), Joseph Addison, Whig Examiner:
      Base and abject flatterers.
    • 1848, Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second:
      An abject liar.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew, I-ii:
      And banish hence these abject, lowly dreams.
    • 1931, Faulkner, Sanctuary, ii:
      He sat obediently with that tentative and abject eagerness of a man who has but one pleasure left and whom the world can reach only through one sense, for he was both blind and deaf.
  4. Showing utter hopelessness, helplessness; showing resignation; wretched. [First attested from around (1350 to 1470).][2]
Usage notes[edit]
  • Nouns to which "abject" is often applied: poverty, fear, terror, submission, misery, failure, state, condition, apology, humility, servitude, manner, coward.
Related terms[edit]
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abject ‎(plural abjects)

  1. A person in the lowest and most despicable condition; a castaway; outcast. [First attested from the late 15th century.][2]
    • (Can we date this quote?), Isaac Taylor, (Please provide the title of the work):
      Shall these abjects, these victims, these outcasts, know any thing of pleasure?
    • circa 1591-1594, Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, Scene I:
      We are the queen's abjects, and must obey.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English abjecten, derived from the adjective form.[3]


abject ‎(third-person singular simple present abjects, present participle abjecting, simple past and past participle abjected)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To cast off or out; to reject. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century.][2]
    • 2001, Jana Evans Braziel, Kathleen LeBesco (editors), Bodies out of bounds: fatness and transgression, page 141:
      Rather than abjecting her own fat body, the Ipecac-taking fat girl is abjecting diet culture.
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To cast down; hence, to abase; to degrade; to lower; to debase. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 17th century.][2]
    (Can we find and add a quotation of John Donne to this entry?)
Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ Elliott K. Dobbie, C. William Dunmore, Robert K. Barnhart, et al. (editors), Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, 2004 [1998], ISBN 0550142304), page 3
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), page 5
  3. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], ISBN 0-87779-101-5), page 4




abject m ‎(feminine singular abjecte, masculine plural abjects, feminine plural abjectes)

  1. (literary) Worthy of utmost contempt or disgust; vile; despicable.
  2. (literary, obsolete) Of the lowest social position.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Abject lacks the idea of groveling, of moral degradation over time that is present in the English word.

Derived terms[edit]

External links[edit]