Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Abscond


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is abscond. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

To abscond is to leave, flee, or escape a place in secret and go into hiding. Often, someone is said to have absconded with something.

// The suspect absconded to Canada before investigators could reach her at home.

// He became concerned that one of his co-conspirators would abscond with the money.

ABSCOND in Context

“Squirrels snarf hard taco shells, and abscond with Nutella jars; subway rats chow down on pizza, while seagulls have ripped fries and even a KFC wrap straight out of human mouths.” — Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 21 Feb. 2023

Did You Know?

In “Take the Money and Run,” a 1976 earworm by the Steve Miller Band, the singer punctuates a song about teenage bandits with the catchy refrain “Go on, take the money and run.” Granted, the song probably wouldn’t have charted had it been titled “Abscond,” but the meaning would have been the same. Abscond is a word most often used in formal writing for when someone is running and hiding from the law, often with cash or other ill-gotten gains. In legal circles it’s used specifically when someone flies like an eagle from a jurisdiction to evade the legal process, as in “absconded from parole.” The history of abscond doesn’t evade scrutiny: it comes from the Latin verb abscondere, meaning “to hide away.” (That word’s root is condere, meaning “to conceal.”) Today, whether some joker absconds by going to the country to bury some treasure or by taking a jet airliner beyond the law’s reach, they are, in essence, hiding themselves away.

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