Meaning of “abuse” in the English Dictionary

"abuse" in British English

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abuseverb [ T ]

uk /əˈbjuːz/ us /əˈbjuːz/

abuse verb [ T ] (USE WRONGLY)

to use something for the wrong purpose in a way that is harmful or morally wrong:

She is continually abusing her position/authority by getting other people to do things for her.
I never expected that he would abuse the trust I placed in him.
to abuse alcohol

More examples

  • If you abuse your body now, you'll pay the price when you're older.
  • The Mayor and his cohorts have abused their positions of power.
  • In a landmark case/decision, the Governor pardoned a woman convicted of killing her husband, who had physically abused her.
  • People who have been abused as children often experience feelings/a sense of worthlessness.
  • The minister was sacked for abusing power for his personal gain.
noun [ C ] uk /əˈbjuː.zər/ us /əˈbjuː.zɚ/

a child abuser
a drug/solvent abuser


uk /əˈbjuːs/ us /əˈbjuːs/

abuse noun (WRONG USE)

B2 [ C or U ] the use of something in a way that is harmful or morally wrong:

an abuse (= wrong use) of privilege/power/someone's kindness
Drug and alcohol abuse (= using these substances in a bad way) contributed to his early death.

More examples

  • The government say they are trying to do more to educate the public about the consequences of drug abuse.
  • After years of abuse from her husband, she eventually found the courage to leave him.
  • Judge Hawthorne was chosen to head the team investigating the allegations of abuse.
  • There are few crimes more truly shocking than the murder or abuse of children.
  • The family said they had endured years of torment and abuse at the hands of the neighbours.

(Definition of “abuse” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"abuse" in American English

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abusenoun [ C/U ]

us /əˈbjus/

bad or cruel treatment of a person or animal, or the use of something in an unsuitable or wrong way:

[ U ] The rescued dogs had been victims of physical abuse.

abuseverb [ T ]

us /əˈbjuz/

to treat a person or animal badly or cruelly, or to use something in the wrong way:

He was always welcome but he never abused the privilege by visiting us too often.
noun [ C ] us /əˈbju·zər/

Providing an alcohol or drug abuser with the right treatment can cost more than $20,000.

(Definition of “abuse” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"abuse" in Business English

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uk /əˈbjuːs/ us

[ C or U ] a situation in which a person uses something in a bad or wrong way, especially for their own advantage or pleasure:

The former president has been accused of corruption and abuse of power.
The politician employs his two sons to work in his office at taxpayers' expense, which critics say is an abuse of his position.
The CEO was fined for market abuse after encouraging his friends to buy shares before the takeover was announced publicly.
Employees are routinely tested for drug / and alcohol abuse.

[ U ] rude and offensive words said to another person:

He claimed he had received verbal abuse from his co-workers.

abuseverb [ T ]

uk /əˈbjuːz/ us

to use something in a bad or wrong way, especially for your own advantage or pleasure:

The Chief Executive is accused of abusing his position by advising family members when to buy and sell shares.
Workers found to be abusing drugs or alcohol will be offered help.

to use rude and offensive words to another person:

Striking workers abused colleagues who continued to go into work.

(Definition of “abuse” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)