Are Denounce and Renounce the Same? When Do We Use These?

denounce vs renounce

There is no shortage of “confusing” words in English. Some word pairs would have only a single letter missing or interchanged, and yet they could sound and mean significantly different from each other. The words “denounce” and “renounce” are two such terms.

“Denounce” and “renounce” do not have the same spellings, pronunciations, and certainly not the same or even similar meanings. The term “denounce” means “to speak against something or someone publicly”. “Renounce” means “giving up or abandoning”. The only similarity between them is they are verbs.

Besides being verbs, the other similarity between “denounce” and “renounce” is the action is “formal” or “official”. Keep reading to learn what all that means, besides a host of other important information to distinguish the two terms and use them correctly in your sentences.

denounce sign on blue backgroun

“Denounce” – Definition 

The word “denounce” means “to censure or condemn publicly or openly”. For instance, a politician is “denounced” as morally corrupt. The word is derived from “denuntiare”, a Latin term that means “to command”.

“Denounce” is also usually a formal accusation filed in a court or submitted to the police against someone. “To proclaim or announce” or “to portend” are other meanings of the word that are considered archaic and/or obsolete.

Though not truly identical in meanings, the following terms can be used as substitutes of “denounce”:

  • Prosecute
  • Rebuke
  • Criticize
  • Castigate
  • Vilify
  • Stigmatize, etc.

The antonyms of “denounce” are “applaud”, “acclaim”, “honor”, “eulogize”, “praise”, “sanction”, etc.

Comparing “Denounce” with Its Synonyms 

The synonyms of “denounce” too mean “to openly find fault with a thing”. The word “denounce”, however, adds a “condemnation” undertone to the “public or formal announcement”. 

The words “censure” and “denounce” are almost identical in their meanings. However, “censure” denotes a strong sense of “reprimanding” and “authority”. The word “criticize” can be used instead of “denounce” if the fault lies with “policies”, “methods”, or “intentions”. “Police violence” is usually “criticized” by the public and not “denounced”. 

“Reprehend” and “denounce” are also relatively equivalent in meaning. However, the term “reprehend” implies both “severe rebuking” and “criticism”. “Reprobate”, on the other hand, is a better word than “denounce” if “firm refusal to sanction” or “strong disapproval” is the intended message.

“Renounce” – Definition 

The term “renounce” means “to formally give up a thing” – typically an official post or position of authority, as in “he renounced his throne”. Unlike “denounce”, “renounce” has French roots, having originated from the word “renoncer”, which means “abandoning a viewpoint”.

“Renounce” could also mean “formally or solemnly rejecting” or “going back on something”. For example: “After failing to find true love for the third consecutive time, he vowed to renounce the materialistic world and become a monk.”

Words or phrases that can be used synonymously with “renounce” are “abdicate”, “relinquish”, “resign”, “cede”, “step down”, “step aside”, “surrender”, etc. Antonyms of the word include “acknowledge”, “affirm”, “admit”, “assert”, etc.

Comparing “Renounce” with Its Synonyms 

While the terms “resign” and “abdicate” are similar in meaning to “renounce”, the word “renounce” entails a “sense of sacrifice” that is comparatively bigger or more significant than the meaning that can be derived from the former two words.

For example, in this sentence, “He renounced his inheritance by tying the knot with a commoner”, the terms “resign” and “abdicate” may not be as fitting or impactful as “renounce”.

However, the term “abdicate” seems more appropriate than “renounce” when it implies relinquishing sovereign power or evading a major responsibility, such as parenthood. The verb “resign”, on the other hand, feels right when used in relating to “giving up a job in an office or trust”.

Using “Denounce” in Writings 

The term “denounce” is used in writings when the objective is to criticize or accuse someone or something publicly. The word has negative connotations and must be used to underline specific undesirable or adverse attributes in a person, entity, or thing.

The objective behind using “denounce” in a sentence or the intended message should be any of the following:

  • To openly condemn a reprehensible or wrong act.
  • To publicly accuse or inform against someone.
  • To formally announce the conclusion or termination of a treaty.

A country’s president could “denounce” the leader of another nation for actions the former believes to be “wrong”, “unjust”, or “immoral”. An employee could also come out and “denounce” their boss’ corrupt business practices.

woman with palm up signing to stop

Using “Renounce” in Writings 

“Renounce” is considered a more formal, stronger way to state that you “disown” or “reject” something. The word is certainly not used in contexts like giving up the window seat in an airplane.

For example, in this sentence, “I renounced my window seat”, “renounce” is a bit too loaded a word. The term is usually used in conjunction with words or phrases such as “prince”, “royal life”, “senator”, “political party”, etc. When using “renounce”, it should give the “formal announcement” feel. 

Here are some sentences that correctly use the term:

  • In a rather long speech, she renounced her citizenship.
  • Thanks to increasing pressure, he had no option but to renounce his candidature for the seat.
  • The treaty ensured the country renounced all its nuclear weapons.

The term “renounce” can also be used to declare one will “no longer adhere to”, “engage in”, or “support” a thing. Here are a few sentences implying that: 

  • Once he turned sober, he renounced his past lifestyle.
  • Since we’ve renounced the revolution, we’ll no longer remain a party to it.
  • After the contentious decision he made, several of his old friends renounced him.

Example Sentences with the Word “Denounce” 

Here are a few sentences illustrating the contexts in which “denounce” is typically used:

  • The government denounced the group’s use of violence.
  • The movie was denounced for how its female characters were portrayed.
  • Top officials of the party must denounce his incorrect and unjustified statements.
  • Denouncing him in public was quite tempting, but that would have been immature on my part too.
  • They were denounced, ignored, and efforts were also made to reform and manage them.
  • Denouncing what’s wrong is the hallmark of an honest and brave person.
  • Human rights groups have been time and again denounced for their slimy hypocrisy.
  • The bishop’s teachings were denounced by the church council and declared as heresy.
  • The minister denounced the violent protests.
  • The leader’s own cabinet members denounced him for perjury.
  • The country violated several disarmament provisions relating to the treaty during the early 1900s, and their notorious leader was continually seen denouncing the pact.
  • She broke her silence by denouncing the verdict.
  • Her former supporters denounced her ideology.

Example Sentences with the Word “Renounce” 

The following are sentences with the term “renounce”, “renouncing”, and some other variations of the word:

  • Thanks to the corruption scandal, the Congresswoman had no option but to renounce her seat.
  • The hardest part of becoming a vegetarian is to renounce bacon and hamburgers.
  • Renouncing liberty can be equated to giving up the right to live.
  • The chief renounced fascism and was later investigated but not arrested or put on trial.
  • Renouncing one’s faith is no more imperative to register an interfaith marriage in the country.
  • I renounce all worldly pleasures to live an austere life.
  • He must renounce his affiliation to the party to win back his supporters.
  • Not wishing to acquire what you do not have is one thing; renouncing what you already have is an entirely different thing.
  • She refused to renounce her medical degree as she didn’t see any point in doing that.
  • He renounced engineering and devoted himself completely to mathematics.
  • According to the laws, unmarried fathers can legally renounce their acquired parental responsibilities.

Learning to Differentiate “Denounce” and “Renounce”

Before getting on with learning how to remember the difference between “denounce” and “renounce”, read the following sentence: 

  • The tax authority is in no mood to spare those who denounced their citizenship just to gain some tax benefits.

Though the above sentence reads well, it’s incorrect as it should have “renounced” instead of “denounced”. Here is the correct version: 

  • The tax authority is in no mood to spare those who renounced their citizenship to gain some tax benefits.

To not get confused between the two terms, take the first letter of each word: “d” and “r”. The word “renounce” is quite similar to “reject”, “revoke”, and “retract” in meaning, and all those three words begin with the letter “r”. 

One of the synonyms of “denounce” is “condemn”. While “condemn” doesn’t start with the letter “d”, it has the letter in its spelling. Just remember this trick to ensure you don’t get mixed up between the two words.

final thoughts street sign in brick wall


The verb “renounce” indicates a more inward focus. In other words, it deals more with your actions than what you think about or are likely to do about someone else’s behavior. “Denounce”, on the other hand, is externally directed. 

Despite the apparent differences between the two words in pretty much all possible aspects, quite a few people use “renounce” in place of “denounce”, or vice versa. This article will hopefully help the concerned address that. 

Long story short, you “denounce” other people’s actions or words, but you “renounce” an old lifestyle or habit or your allegiance to something or someone.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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