Definition and Etymology of Abolition

1. Definition

What is, concept or meaning

n. Abolition refers to the act of officially ending or canceling something, such as a custom, law, institution or practice. The term is often used to describe the movement to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. An abolitionist is a person who actively works to end slavery and abolish the slave trade.
Abolitionists believed that slavery was a moral evil and that it was the duty of society to put an end to it. They advocated for the immediate release of all enslaved people, and sought to end the laws and institutions that supported slavery. They also worked to change the public’s perception of slavery and to educate people about the harsh realities of the institution.

2. Etymology

The word “abolition” comes from the Latin word “abolire” which means “to do away with” or “to abolish”, is made up of the prefix “ab-” meaning “away” and the verb “olire” meaning “to destroy.” Together, “abolire” means “to do away with” or “to abolish.” The word was first used in English in the 16th century to refer to the act of ending or canceling something.

Other words with a similar etymology include “abolitionist” which refers to a person who advocates for the abolition of something, and “abolitionism” which refers to the political and social movement to abolish something.

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The word “abolition” is also related to other words in English with the prefix “ab-” such as “abrogate” which means to repeal or annul a law or a rule, “abdicate” which means to renounce or relinquish a throne, power or a responsibility and “abjure” which means to renounce or reject a belief or a statement formally. All these words share the same root of “ab-” meaning “away” or “to do away with”.

3. History

The abolition movement in the United States began in the late 18th century and gained momentum in the early 19th century. In 1807, the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act, which made it illegal to trade enslaved people in the British Empire. This law was a major blow to the transatlantic slave trade and inspired abolitionists in the United States to push for similar legislation.

In the United States, abolitionists were met with fierce resistance from slaveholders and their allies. Many abolitionists were harassed, arrested, and even killed for their beliefs. Despite this, the movement continued to grow, and by the mid-19th century, it had become a major political issue.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all enslaved people in the Confederate states were to be set free. This was a major victory for the abolition movement, but it did not immediately end slavery in the United States. It wasn’t until the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1865 that slavery was officially abolished throughout the country.

4. Examples of use

Examples of usage of the word “abolition” in a sentence:

  • The abolition of slavery in the United States marked a significant moment in the country’s history.
  • The abolitionist movement was a social and political movement that worked to end the practice of slavery and the slave trade.
  • Today, there are still ongoing efforts to abolish modern forms of slavery such as forced labor and human trafficking.
  • The city council voted to abolish the parking meter fees on Sundays to encourage more visitors to downtown.
  • The movement to abolish nuclear weapons gained traction in the wake of the recent nuclear accident.

It is important to note that the word “abolition” implies that the thing being abolished will no longer be in effect and will not be able to be revived.

5. Uses and Applications

The term “abolition” and its derivatives are used in various contexts today, from human rights and social justice to environmentalism and economic policy. For example, some organizations work to abolish the death penalty or human trafficking, others advocate for the abolition of fossil fuels or nuclear weapons, and some focus on the abolition of poverty, discrimination and other forms of oppression.

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Bibliography ► (January 13, 2023). Abolition. Recovered from