Definition: To deny, repudiate or renounce an oath. It can also refer to the act of recanting an error or a sin. Finally, to abjure can also mean to ‘shun’ – as on to abjure from one’s responsibilities.
Abjure entered the English language, via French, in the first half of the fifteenth century (Late Middle English). It derives from the Latin abjurare, also meaning to deny an oath. Think of the word ‘Jury’. It basically relates to a group of people who have sworn to be honest in their deliberations. The prefix ‘ab’ reverses it.
Why This Word?
Sometimes lost words allow us to see a little of previous worlds. For me, it is not necessarily the word abjure itself that hints at halcyon days when your word was your oath and awkward words to describe the recantation of oaths were needed: but it is the fact that the English language decided that it needed two such words. In addition to abjure, the English language adjudged that it also needed the word forswear. There is a subtle difference between the two – while both refer to the act of recanting an oath, only forswear can be used to describe the act of falsely taking the oath to begin with.
How to use this word:
Save this one for occasions that require maximum drama. Say you’re involved in a business deal and you promised to sign off on it only to realize that the other side had played some nasty tricks in the background to make your deal look better than it actually is. As you rise slowly from the conference table, snarl on your lips, look them straight in the eye and tell them that the deal is off.
“The deal is off? But you swore!”
“This is not what I agreed to. I abjure from my promise.”
The door slams, the credits roll.