If you abuse someone, it means you are hurting that person, mentally, emotionally, or physically. If someone else is harming you, you are yourself suffering from abuse.

The word abuse is made up of two parts — "use," which means to employ, and ab-, a Latin prefix meaning "away" — and as a whole comes from the Latin abūsus, meaning "misuse," or "use wrongly." It began as a verb and became a noun in the mid-15th century. Abuse also refers to anything that is employed improperly or to excess, such as the abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Primary Meanings of abuse

cruel or inhumane treatment
treat badly
improper or excessive use
use wrongly or improperly or excessively
Full Definitions of abuse

n cruel or inhumane treatment

“the child showed signs of physical abuse
ill-treatment, ill-usage, maltreatment
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child abuse
the physical or emotional or sexual mistreatment of children
child neglect
failure of caretakers to provide adequate emotional and physical care for a child
the act of persecuting (especially on the basis of race or religion)
cruelty, inhuman treatment
a cruel act; a deliberate infliction of pain and suffering
the act of piercing with a sharpened stake as a form of punishment or torture
oppression, subjugation
the act of subjugating by cruelty
organized persecution of an ethnic group (especially Jews)
handing over prisoners to countries where torture is allowed
torture, torturing
the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason
atrocity, inhumanity
an act of atrocious cruelty
Type of:
the practice of treating (someone or something) badly

n a rude expression intended to offend or hurt

“when a student made a stupid mistake he spared them no abuse
contumely, insult, revilement, vilification
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low blow
unscrupulous abuse
billingsgate, scurrility
foul-mouthed or obscene abuse
cut, stinger
a remark capable of wounding mentally
invective, vitriol, vituperation
abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will
Type of:
discourtesy, disrespect
an expression of lack of respect

v treat badly

“This boss abuses his workers”
ill-treat, ill-use, maltreat, mistreat, step
kick around
treat badly; abuse
Type of:
do by, handle, treat
interact in a certain way

v use foul or abusive language towards

“The actress abused the policeman who gave her a parking ticket”
blackguard, clapperclaw, shout
abuse with coarse language
rail, revile, vilify, vituperate
spread negative information about
heap obscenities upon
Type of:
assail, assault, attack, lash out, round, snipe
attack in speech or writing

n improper or excessive use

“alcohol abuse
“the abuse of public funds”
drug abuse, habit, substance abuse
excessive use of drugs
alcohol abuse, alcoholic abuse, alcoholism abuse
excessive use of alcohol and alcoholic drinks
Type of:
employment, exercise, usage, use, utilisation, utilization
the act of using

v use wrongly or improperly or excessively

“Her husband often abuses alcohol”
“while she was pregnant, she abused drugs”
Type of:
expend, use
use up, consume fully

v change the inherent purpose or function of something

“Don't abuse the system”
misuse, pervert
violate or abuse
take in vain
use a name, such as God, without proper respect
Type of:
expend, use
use up, consume fully

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