When to Use Denounce & Renounce

Heated events like the repeal of DACA and the North Korean missile tests have people throwing around words like “denounce” and “renounce” in the media. But these words aren’t interchangeable, and the Word Nerd wanted to know the meaning of them and a few others (like enounce and pronounce).

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If you, like me, like to learn about the origin and definition of words, visit the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme at Bermuda Onion. There, bloggers share interesting words they’ve learned.

All four words- denounce, renounce, enounce, and pronounce- are verbs that come from the same Latin root, nuntiare to report. The differences in their meanings come from the prefixes.

  • Denounce– to publicly pronounce someone blameworthy or evil; this is usually a very serious action, like when a president denounces the leader of another country
  • Renounce-to give up, refuse, or resign usually by formal declaration; to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further; examples: to renounce war,  to renounce the authority of the church, to renounce the throne.  Although definitive, this is usually a quieter, less public action.
  • Enounce– to set forth or state something in definite terms, such as a proposition (Democrats enounce a contrary opinion); to pronounce distinctly (please enounce at the microphone); this might be more familiar as “enounciate”
  • Pronounce– to declare officially or ceremoniously; (pronounce man and wife); to employ the organs of speech to produce (pronounce your name slowly)

    Whew, got all that? I think the difference between denounce and renounce is the most important and the hardest to see. Basically, to denounce is a more serious and public action against someone or something than to renounce.

Thank you to Merriam Webster for the definitions and Dean Close for the suggestions.

Word Nerd Workout

Choose which one of the four- denounce, renounce, enounce, or pronounce- fits best in the following sentences.

1) If the prince decides to _____________ the throne, he will lose his right to be king.

2) The president will ______________ North Korea’s use of nuclear missiles during the speech.

3) The attorney general has reviewed the policy and is expected to ______________ it unconstitutional.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me today!

Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.

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