Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for October 13, 2020 is:

usurp • yoo-SERP  • verb

1 a : to seize and hold (office, place, functions, powers, etc.) in possession by force or without right

b : to take or make use of without right

2 : to take the place of by or as if by force : supplant


“The directors of seven European film festivals shared the stage at the opening of the 77th Venice film festival to help kick-start an industry that they said was in danger of being usurped by streaming sites such as Netflix because of the Covid-19 pandemic.” — Lanre Bakare, The Guardian (London), 2 Sept. 2020

“More important, he has fundamentally changed the way that professional tennis is played.… Djokovic introduced a defensive style of movement that is copied widely by the younger generation of players who actively seek to usurp him.” — Max Gendler, The New York Times, 31 Aug. 2020

Did you know?

Usurp was borrowed into English in the 14th century from the Anglo-French word usorper, which in turn derives from the Latin verb usurpare, meaning “to take possession of without a legal claim.” Usurpare itself was formed by combining usu (a form of usus, meaning “use”) and rapere (“to seize”). Other descendants of rapere in English include rapacious (“given to seizing or extorting what is coveted”), rapine (“the seizing and carrying away of things by force”), rapt (the earliest sense of which is “lifted up and carried away”), and ravish (one meaning of which is “to seize and take away by violence”).

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