Usurpation – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe a situation in which someone illegally took control over a property that did not belong to them, or in which a country occupied another territory? The word “usurpation” will fit.

Read on to dive into its meaning and usage.


The English noun “usurpation” means the taking of an object, a property, or a territory by force and without having the legal right to do so.

This may also be referred to as seizure, conquest, appropriation, or even stealing, depending on the context.

In a legal sense, usurpation refers to the illegal act of obtaining control over a property that belongs to another person.

Other forms that have the same root include:

  • To usurp, a verb that means “to (illegally or forcefully) seize or take”.
  • Usurper, meaning someone who usurps.

The word usurpation is pronounced “you-sur-PAY-tion”, with the third syllable being stressed.

Example Usage

Should you not understand how you may be able to use the noun usurpation in a sentence, the following examples could help you out:

  • The Second World War can be said to have started with Nazi Germany’s usurpation of Poland.
  • Squatters may think that they are not committing any harm when they move into unoccupied houses, but this act of usurpation could have far-ranging legal consequences for the actual property owner.
  • The usurpation of foreign territories for personal gain cannot be condoned.
  • Other forms of the word are more popular, and one example would be “Korean King Taejong of Joseon usurped the throne by killing all of his brothers”.


The modern, albeit rarely-used, English noun usurpation originally came from old, fourteenth-century, French. The original word was “usurpacion”. This word had the same meaning, namely “to wrongfully acquire something”.

This French word, in turn, originated with Latin, in which the word “usurpatio”, meaning “taking to bring into use”, was used. The Latin word was formed by combining the words for “to use” (“usus”) and “to seize” (“rapere”).

“Usurpation” has largely fallen out of use in modern English, where it is certainly not part of anyone’s common or everyday vocabulary.

In a legal sense, usurpation refers to the act of unlawfully and wrongfully seizing someone else’s property. The word usurpation can also be used to describe the invasion and subsequent consequent of a previously sovereign country or territory.

Should you be looking for a more modern use of this archaic word, you may be interested to learn that usurpation has been defined on Urban Dictionary multiple times, with the oldest entry dating back to 2004.

In this context, usurpation may mean:

  • Draining someone’s energy.
  • Stealing someone else’s partner.
  • Stealing someone’s free time.

Words Similar to Usurpation

Instead of usurpation, you could also say:

  • Seizure (as in “the seizure of this property…”).
  • Appropriation.
  • Conquest.
  • Confiscation.
  • Encroachment.

Words Opposite to Usurpation

As “usurpation” refers to the wrongful or illegal acquisition of a property or territory, antonyms would be related to charitable or spontaneous giving. You could say:

  • Bestowal.
  • Gift.
  • Charitable giving.
  • Reparations (amends made after the wrongful conquest of another country).
  • Relinquishment (with the possible meaning of returning a stolen item or wrongfully acquired property).

What Is the Correct Word?

The correct word is “usurpation”, meaning the wrongful or unlawful acquisition of a property or territory. Other forms include “usurping”, “usurped”, and “usurper”.

Ways People May Say Usurpation Incorrectly

Someone who has read the word “usurpation” but is not sure how to pronounce it may incorrectly conclude that usurpation is pronounced “us-ur-pation”, with the “us” rhyming with “bus”.

Instead, the correct way to pronounce usurpation is “you-sur-PAY-tion”, with an emphasis on the third syllable.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Usurpation

“Usurpation” is a slightly archaic word that is not often used outside of formal or legal contexts.

You could use this noun to describe the illegal or wrongful taking of a property, whether by an individual, a group of people, or an authority. Usurpation is also used to describe the wrongful and illegal seizure of the territory of one sovereign country by another.

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