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Alternative formsEdit

  • abasse


First attested in 1303. From Middle English abaisen, abaishen, abashen (to gape with surprise) etc., from Anglo-Norman abaïss, from Middle French abair, abaisser (to astonish, alter), from Old French esbaïr, (French ébahir), from es- (utterly) + baïr (to astonish), from Latin ex- (out of) + baer (to gape), from batāre (to yawn, gape).[1][2][3]



abash (third-person singular simple present abashes, present participle abashing, simple past and past participle abashed)

  1. (transitive) To make ashamed; to embarrass; to destroy the self-possession of, as by exciting suddenly a consciousness of guilt, mistake, or inferiority; to disconcert; to discomfit. [First attested from around (1150 to 1350).][1]
    • 1849, Thomas Macaulay, History of England, Chapter 14
      He was a man whom no check could abash
    • 1934, Agatha Christie, chapter 8, in Murder on the Orient Express, London: HarperCollins, published 2017, page 129:
      The stare seemed to abash Poirot.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete) To lose self-possession; to become ashamed. [Attested from around (1350 to 1470) until the late 16th century.][1]

Usage notesEdit

  • Of abash, confuse, confound: Abash is a stronger word than confuse, but not so strong as confound.
    • We are abashed when struck either with sudden shame or with a humbling sense of inferiority; as, Peter was abashed by the look of his Master. So a modest youth is abashed in the presence of those who are greatly his superiors.
    • We are confused when, from some unexpected or startling occurrence, we lose clearness of thought and self-possession. Thus, a witness is often confused by a severe cross-examination; a timid person is apt to be confused in entering a room full of strangers.
    • We are confounded when our minds are overwhelmed, as it were, by something wholly unexpected, amazing, dreadful, etc., so that we have nothing to say. Thus, a criminal is usually confounded at the discovery of his guilt.
    • Satan stood Awhile as mute, confounded what to say. – John Milton


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Derived termsEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 “abash” in Lesley Brown, editor-in-chief; William R. Trumble and Angus Stevenson, editors, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th edition, Oxford; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 2.
  2. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], →ISBN), page 2
  3. ^ “abash” in Christine A. Lindberg, editor, The Oxford College Dictionary, 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: Spark Publishing, 2002, →ISBN, page 2.