Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for May 2, 2021 is:

abjure • ab-JOOR  • verb

1 formal a : to renounce upon oath

b : to reject solemnly

2 formal : to abstain from : avoid


“Pop was indeed eating itself. ‘If you’ve gone eight bars and there hasn’t been an inanity,’ argued [musician Green Gartside], ‘it’s time for a “baby” or an “ooh” or a “love” or something.’ Perhaps the Pixies 1989 song ‘La La Love You’ takes this to its logical conclusion, abjuring all lyrics except repeated declarations of love, the ‘maybes’ and the ‘babys.’ It is music at its most self-referential.” — Peter Salmon, The Quietus, 17 Oct. 2020

“Leo Tolstoy was an inveterate quitter. All his life, he gave up the things that mattered to him, or tried to. He bolted from university without a degree, left the army, renounced the privileges of aristocracy. He rejected the Orthodox church and abjured fiction as a vanity.” — The Economist, 8 Feb. 2020

Did you know?

Just as a jury swears to produce an unbiased verdict, and a witness swears to tell the truth on pain of perjury, those who abjure their former ways “swear them away.” Abjure (as well as jury and perjury) comes from Latin jurare, which means “to swear” (and which in turn is based on the root jus, meaning “law”), plus the prefix ab-, meaning “away.” These days, we can casually abjure (that is, abstain from) various vices, but in the 15th and 16th centuries to abjure was a matter of renouncing something under oath—and sometimes a matter of life and death. For example, during the Spanish Inquisition, individuals were given the choice between abjuring unacceptable beliefs and being burned at the stake.

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