What does ‘abjure’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: abjure….

I’ve encountered the word abjure many times, and undoubtedly learned its meaning many times as well, but for some reason it’s never managed to lodge itself in my brain. I came across it again in Jonathan Franzen’s 2015 novel, Purity.

Here is how the author used it:

This reproach, mild though it was, was all but unprecedented. Her entire method as a mother was to abjure direct correction.

The word means to solemnly renounce a belief, cause, or claim. An example? The UK’s former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, pictured above, abjured his US citizenship in 2016. Born in New York City to English parents, Johnson was educated at elite schools in England and earned his university degree from Oxford. (He announced his decision to give up his citizenship in the Spectator magazine in August, 2006, when he wrote a column under the headline, “That’s it, Uncle Sam: I’m yours no more.” In his typical flamboyant style, he wrote, “That’s it. Entre nous c’est terminé. After 42 happy years, I’m getting a divorce from America.”)
The etymology of the word is Latin, from ab, meaning “away” and from jurare meaning “swear.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on July 25/18.

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