Renounce vs. Denounce: What’s the Difference?

There are a lot of English words with similar meanings, spelling, pronunciations, etc., and they all serve to confuse writers. Which word is meant to be used and when? Such is the case with renounce vs. denounce.

These words share a similar Latin origin, but in modern English they have different meanings and uses.

What is the Difference Between Renounce and Denounce?

Today, I want to discuss the differences between renounce and denounce. I will go over their definitions, their uses within a sentence, and provide you with a few tricks to tell them apart.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever mix up these two words again.

When to Use Renounce

Denounce or renounce grammar rules and termsWhat does renounce mean? Renounce is a verb and has two main senses.

The first sense of the word is to give up or relinquish (a title or possession), especially by formal announcement.

  • In a lengthy speech, he renounced his citizenship.
  • Due to mounting pressure, he was forced to renounce his claim to the throne.
  • The treaty forced the nation to renounce all nuclear weapons.

The second sense of the word is to declare that one will no longer engage in, adhere to, or support; to reject or disown.

  • Once he became sober, he renounced his old lifestyle.
  • We have renounced the revolution and will no longer be a part of it.
  • After she had made her decision, many of her old friends renounced her.

Renounce is a word that is more internally focused than denounce. To renounce something is much more a statement about what you have done/plan to do, rather than what someone else has done.

You might renounce an old habit or lifestyle or renounce your support for something, but you denounce other people’s words or actions.

When to Use Denounce

renounce versus denounce worksheetWhat does denounce mean? Denounce is also a verb, and it has three main senses.

The first sense is to condemn openly as being wrong or reprehensible.

  • The President denounced the violence and called for peace.
  • After his desertion, he was denounced as a traitor.

The second sense is to inform against someone, publicly accuse.

  • Some of his cabinet members denounced him to the media for perjury.

The third sense is to give formal announcement to the ending of a treaty.

  • Germany violated many disarmament provisions of the Treaty of Versailles during the 1920s, and Hitler denounced the treaty altogether in 1935.

Of these three senses, the first is by far the most common.

Common Mistakes

Some writers use denounce when they mean renounce. For example,

  • The IRS fought with those who denounced their citizenship for back taxes.

-should read-

  • The IRS fought with those who renounced their citizenship for back taxes.

Remember the Difference

There’s a good trick to remember when choosing renounce or denounce and it has to do with the first letter of each word.

Renounce is similar in meaning to reject, retract, and revoke. Renounce, reject, retract, and revoke all start with the letter “R.”

Denounce is similar in meaning to condemn. Denounce and condemn both have the letter “D” in them.

If you can remember this trick, you should be all set.

Summary

Is it denounce or renounce? These words share a similar origin, but their English meanings are very different. It is, therefore, that much more important to use denounce vs. renounce carefully.

Renounce means to give up or relinquish or declare your ending support.

Denounce means to condemn openly, accuse publicly, or formally end a treaty.