There's been a lot of discussion in the past few days about the dirty, dirty $165 million in bonuses at AIG. And frequently, the word abrogate is being used in news stories when talking about the possibility of the government canceling the contracts that award these bonuses. From a New York Times column from Monday:
If you think this economy is a mess now, imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start abrogating contracts left and right.
I'd heard this word once or twice before, but never so often at once. A Google News search pulls up a lot of recent uses of abrogate, mostly in relation to AIG. I wonder if it will be one of those words like "surge" or "change" last year that suddenly pops up and gets used a ton, then goes back to its normal frequency of usage.
Abrogate comes from the Latin abrogare, which means "to repeal, to disregard, ignore, repudiate, to cancel, revoke, to take away," according to the OED. In English, it has the added meaning of repealing with authority:
- OED: "To repeal (a law, established usage, etc.); to abolish authoritatively or formally; to annul, to cancel."
- American Heritage: "To abolish, do away with, or annul, especially by authority."
- Merriam-Webster Online: "To abolish by authoritative action."
The OED has quotes of abrogate being used as far back as 1520.