1. disavow (v)

    refuse to acknowledge; disclaim knowledge of; responsibility for, or association with; "Her husband disavowed her after 30 years of marriage and six children"

Examples from classic literature
  • Bedford! However I disavowed him, there I was most certainly bound up with him, and I knew that wherever or whatever I might be, I must needs feel the stress of his desires, and sympathise with all his joys and sorrows until his life should end. And with the dying of Bedford–what then? …

    The First Men in the Moon by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Of course I ought to have expected that, only I didn’t. It came to me as an absolute, for a moment an overwhelming shock. It seemed as though it wasn’t a face, as though it must needs be a mask, a horror, a deformity, that would presently be disavowed or explained. There was no nose, and the thing had dull bulging eyes at the side–in the silhouette I had supposed they were ears. There were no ears…. I have tried to draw one of these heads, but I cannot. There was a mouth, downwardly curved, like a human mouth in a face that stares ferociously….

    The First Men in the Moon by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • When the Committee of Resistance in the sitting at which the decree of deposition and of outlawry was drawn up and voted, making use of the discretionary power which the Left had confided to it, decided that all the signatures of the Republican Representatives remaining at liberty should be placed at the foot of the decree, it was a bold stroke; the Committee did not conceal from itself that it was a list of proscription offered to the victorious coup d'etat ready drawn up, and perhaps in its inner conscience it feared that some would disavow it, and protest against it. As a matter of fact, the next day we received two letters, two complaints. They were from two Representatives who had been omitted from the list, and who claimed the honor of being reinstated there. I reinstate these two Representatives here, in their right of being proscripts. Here are their names–Anglade and Pradie.

    The History of a Crime by Victor Hugo
  • In the last two or three hundred years there has been a very considerable disentanglement of the idea of God from the complex of sexual thought and feeling. But in the early days of religion the two things were inseparably bound together; the fury of the Hebrew prophets, for example, is continually proclaiming the extraordinary “wrath” of their God at this or that little dirtiness or irregularity or breach of the sexual tabus. The ceremony of circumcision is clearly indicative of the original nature of the Semitic deity who developed into the Trinitarian God. So far as Christianity dropped this rite, so far Christianity disavowed the old associations. But to this day the representative Christian churches still make marriage into a mystical sacrament, and, with some exceptions, the Roman communion exacts the sacrifice of celibacy from its priesthood, regardless of the mischievousness and maliciousness that so often ensue. Nearly every Christian church inflicts as much discredit and injustice as it can contrive upon the illegitimate child. They do not treat illegitimate children as unfortunate children, but as children with a mystical and an incurable taint of SIN. Kindly easy-going Christians may resent this statement because it does not tally with their own attitudes, but let them consult their orthodox authorities.

    God, the Invisible King by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Christ, it is manifest, was of the modern faith in these matters, he welcomed the Magdalen, neither would he condemn the woman taken in adultery. Manifestly corruption and disease were not to stand between him and those who sought God in him. But the Christianity of the creeds, in this as in so many respects, does not rise to the level of its founder, and it is as necessary to repeat to-day as though the name of Christ had not been ascendant for nineteen centuries, that sex is a secondary thing to religion, and sexual status of no account in the presence of God. It follows quite logically that God does not discriminate between man and woman in any essential things. We leave our individuality behind us when we come into the presence of God. Sex is not disavowed but forgotten. Just as one’s last meal is forgotten–which also is a difference between the religious moment of modern faith and certain Christian sacraments. You are a believer and God is at hand to you; heed not your state; reach out to him and he is there. In the moment of religion you are human; it matters not what else you are, male or female, clean or unclean, Hebrew or Gentile, bond or free. It is AFTER the moment of religion that we become concerned about our state and the manner in which we use ourselves.

    God, the Invisible King by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • The Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers appearing soon after his arrival at Bath, and being by many imputed to a writer who had lately so much distinguished himself by his talent for satire, he was at considerable pains to disavow that publication; and by some lines containing a deserved compliment to his sovereign, gave a sufficient pledge for the honesty of his disclaimer.

    Lives of the English Poets by Henry Francis Cary
  • I had already formed my resolution. Although I had lost my papers, I could make a very good guess as to what their contents would be, and this I would say from my own lips to the Prince of Saxe-Felstein, as though the Emperor had commissioned me to convey it in that way. It was a bold stroke and a dangerous one, but if I went too far I could afterwards be disavowed. It was that or nothing, and when all Germany hung on the balance the game should not be lost if the nerve of one man could save it.

    The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • In the United Kingdom we have had no Napoleon to override the profession. It is extraordinary how complete has been their preservation of barbaric conceptions. Even the doctor is now largely emancipated from his archaic limitations as a skilled retainer. He thinks more and more of the public health, and less and less of his patron. The more recent a profession the less there is of the individualistic personal reference; scientific research, for example, disavows and forbids every personal reference.

    What is Coming? A Forecast of Things after the War by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Billy conceived a suspicion that these innocent inquiries were designed to emphasize a contrast in his social quality. But he could not be sure. One never could be sure with Lady Marayne. It might be just that she did not understand the sort of man he was. And in that case ought he to maintain the smooth social surface unbroken by pretending as far as possible to be this kind of person, or ought he to make a sudden gap in it by telling his realities. He evaded the shooting question anyhow. He left it open for Lady Marayne and the venerable butler and Sir Godfrey and every one to suppose he just happened to be the sort of gentleman of leisure who doesn’t shoot. He disavowed hunting, he made it appear he travelled when he travelled in directions other than Scotland. But the fourth question brought him to bay. He regarded his questioner with his small rufous eye.

    The Research Magnificent by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Now Benham’s host had been twitting him with the European patronage of opium, and something in this message stirred his facile indignation. Twice before he had had similar demands. And on the whole they had seemed to him to be unreasonable demands. He was astonished that while he was sitting and talking of the great world-republic of the future and the secret self-directed aristocracy that would make it possible, his own friend, his chosen companion, should thus, by this inglorious request and this ungainly messenger, disavow him. He felt a wave of intense irritation.

    The Research Magnificent by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • For if one is to disavow all pride and priggishness, if one is to find the solution of life’s problem in the rational enjoyment of one’s sensations, why should one not use opium? It is art materialized. It gives tremendous experiences with a minimum of exertion, and if presently its gifts diminish one need but increase the quantity. Moreover, it quickens the garrulous mind, and steadies the happiness of love. Across the varied adventures of Benham’s journey in China fell the shadow first of a suspicion and then of a certainty….

    The Research Magnificent by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • My nerves vibrated to those low-spoken words as they had never vibrated to thunder–my blood felt their subtle violence as it had never felt frost or fire; but I was collected, and in no danger of swooning. I looked at Mr. Rochester: I made him look at me. His whole face was colourless rock: his eye was both spark and flint. He disavowed nothing: he seemed as if he would defy all things. Without speaking, without smiling, without seeming to recognise in me a human being, he only twined my waist with his arm and riveted me to his side.

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • “It’ll please the old cock,” answered George, anxious to disavow any higher motive. “You aren’t coming?”

    The Roll-Call by Arnold Bennett
  • His wife became as it were the representative of all that held him helpless. She and he had never kept secret from one another any plan of action, any motive, that affected the other. It was clear to him that any movement towards the disavowal of doctrinal Christianity and the renunciation of his see must be first discussed with her. He must tell her before he told the world.

    The Soul of a Bishop by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • “Mme. la Presidente, if I ask for a power of attorney, and would prefer that your attorney’s name should not appear I wish it less in my own interest than in yours… . When I give myself, it is without reserve. And in return, madame, I ask the same fidelity; I ask my patrons (I do not venture to call you my clients) to put the same confidence in me. You may think that in acting thus I am trying to fasten upon this affair–no, no, madame; there may be reprehensible things done; with an inheritance in view one is dragged on … especially with nine hundred thousand francs in the balance. Well, now, you could not disavow a man like Maitre Godeschal, honesty itself, but you can throw all the blame on the back of a miserable pettifogging lawyer–”

    Poor Relations by Honoré de Balzac
  • The Signal, it need not be said, disavowed complicity in this extraordinary entrapping of the Daily brigade by means of an odour. Could it be held responsible for the excesses of its disinterested sympathisers?… Still, the appalling trick showed the high temperature to which blood had risen in the genial battle between great rival organs. Persons in the inmost ring whispered that Denry Machin had at length been bested on this critically important day.

    The Card, a Story of Adventure in the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
  • Presently there was a change in the lighting of the scene, the gloom had become trying to his sight. Not only were two lamps lit on the small bridge, one at each end in the ornate iron scroll work, which Quintin Matsys would not have disavowed, but, overhead, the sky was reddened by the reflection of the thousands of gas jets in the north and west; the gay and spendthrift city was awakening to life and mirth while the working town was going to bed. This glimmer gave a fresh attraction to the architectural features, and still longer detained the spectator.

    The Son of Clemenceau, A Novel of Modern Love and Life by Alexandre Dumas
  • But this idea of an America judicial, remonstrating, and aloof, led him to a conclusion that scandalised him. If America will not, and should not use force in the ends of justice, he argued, then America has no right to make and export munitions of war. She must not trade in what she disavows. He had a quite exaggerated idea of the amount of munitions that America was sending to the Allies, he was inclined to believe that they were entirely dependent upon their transatlantic supplies, and so he found himself persuaded that the victory of the Allies and the honour of America were incompatible things. And–in spite of his ethical aloofness–he loved the Allies. He wanted them to win, and he wanted America to abandon a course that he believed was vitally necessary to their victory. It was an intellectual dilemma. He hid this self-contradiction from Matching’s Easy with much the same feelings that a curate might hide a poisoned dagger at a tea-party….

    Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • “See,” said Stewart, “he couldn’t dare to refuse me access to my client, so he recommends the commanding officer to let me in. Recommends!–the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland recommends. Is not the purpose of such language plain? They hope the officer may be so dull, or so very much the reverse, as to refuse the recommendation. I would have to make the journey back again betwixt here and Fort William. There would follow a fresh delay till I got fresh authority, and they had disavowed the officer–military man, notoriously ignorant of the law, and that–I ken the cant of it. Then the journey a third time; and there we should be on the immediate heels of the trial before I had received my first instruction. Am I not right to call this a conspiracy?”

    David Balfour by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Noise of this soon reach’d the Ears of the Earl of Peterborow at Guadalaxara. When leaving my Lord Galways Camp, pursuant to the Resolutions of the Council of War, with a Party only of fourscore of Killigrew’s Dragoons, he met General Windham’s little Army within a League of Huette, the Place where his Baggage had been plunder’d. The Earl had strong Motives of Suspicion, that the Inhabitants had given Intelligence to the Enemy; and, as is very natural, giving way to the first Dictates of Resentment, he resolv’d to have lay’d the Town in Ashes: But when he came near it, the Clergy and Magistrates upon their Knees, disavowing the Charge, and asserting their Innocence, prevail’d on the good Nature of that generous Earl, without any great Difficulty, to spare the Town, at least not to burn it.

    Military Memoirs of Capt. George Carleton by Daniel Defoe
  • We have seen that in 1647 Hopkins’s tone became lowered, and he began to disavow some of the cruelties he had formerly practised. About the same time a miserable old woman had fallen into the cruel hands of this miscreant near Hoxne, a village in Suffolk, and had confessed all the usual enormities, after being without food or rest a sufficient time. “Her imp,” she said, “was called Nan.” A gentleman in the neighbourhood, whose widow survived to authenticate the story, was so indignant that he went to the house, took the woman out of such inhuman hands, dismissed the witchfinders, and after due food and rest the poor old woman could recollect nothing of the confession, but that she gave a favourite pullet the name of Nan. For this Dr. Hutchison may be referred to, who quotes a letter from the relict of the humane gentleman.

    Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft by Walter Scott
  • However occupied Balthazar Claes might be, he continued for several months cheerful, affectionate, and ready to talk; the change in his character showed itself only by frequent periods of absent-mindedness. Madame Claes long hoped to hear from her husband himself the nature of the secret employment in which he was engaged; perhaps, she thought, he would reveal it when it developed some useful result; many men are led by pride to conceal the nature of their efforts, and only make them known at the moment of success. When the day of triumph came, surely domestic happiness would return, more vivid than ever when Balthazar became aware of this chasm in the life of love, which his heart would surely disavow. Josephine knew her husband well enough to be certain that he would never forgive himself for having made his Pepita less than happy during several months.

    The Alkahest by Honoré de Balzac
  • He spoke this scornfully, yet not without a sort of curiosity, and a wish to receive an answer; for the desire of prying into futurity frequently has some influence even on the minds of those who disavow all belief in the possibility of such predictions.

    A Legend of Montrose by Walter Scott
  • I say you do not mention horses, and you certainly must not hint that the men in authority may have been actuated by motives of humanity. You must believe what you are told–that the sole motive is to get results. The eagerness with which all heads of model establishments would disavow to me any thought of being humane was affecting in its naivete; it had that touch of ingenuous wistfulness which I remarked everywhere in America–and nowhere more than in the demeanor of many mercantile highnesses. (I hardly expect Americans to understand just what I mean here.) It was as if they would blush at being caught in an act of humanity, like school-boys caught praying. Still, to my mind, the white purity of their desire to get financial results was often muddied by the dark stain of a humane motive. I may be wrong (as people say), but I know I am not (as people think).

    Your United States by Arnold Bennett
  • If, in the midst of the most serene day of summer, when all is light and laughing around, a thunderbolt were to fall from the clear blue vault of heaven, and rend the earth at the very feet of some careless traveller, he could not gaze upon the smouldering chasm, which so unexpectedly yawned before him, with half the astonishment and fear which Leicester felt at the sight that so suddenly presented itself. He had that instant been receiving, with a political affectation of disavowing and misunderstanding their meaning, the half-uttered, half-intimated congratulations of the courtiers upon the favour of the Queen, carried apparently to its highest pitch during the interview of that morning, from which most of them seemed to augur that he might soon arise from their equal in rank to become their master. And now, while the subdued yet proud smile with which he disclaimed those inferences was yet curling his cheek, the Queen shot into the circle, her passions excited to the uttermost; and supporting with one hand, and apparently without an effort, the pale and sinking form of his almost expiring wife, and pointing with the finger of the other to her half-dead features, demanded in a voice that sounded to the ears of the astounded statesman like the last dread trumpet-call that is to summon body and spirit to the judgment-seat, “Knowest thou this woman?”

    Kenilworth by Walter Scott
  • “Yes, messieurs, until death; and I beg you to use your utmost influence in the quarter to neutralize the effect of this deliberate falsehood until I am able to officially present the most formal disavowal.”

    The Lesser Bourgeoisie by Honoré de Balzac
  • “Nonsense! I don’t doubt your good faith,” said Erskine, hastily disavowing suspicions which he felt but could not account for. “Here goes!” And he signed.

    An Unsocial Socialist by Bernard Shaw
  • He could not bring himself to the idea of confessions and disavowals. He could not bear to think of her disillusionment. He felt that he owed it to her not to disillusion her, to spoil things for her in that fashion. “To turn into something mean and ugly after she has believed in me…. It would be like playing a practical joke upon her. It would be like taking her into my arms and suddenly making a grimace at her…. It would scar her with a second humiliation….”

    The Secret Places of the Heart by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • Dr. Martineau, a little out of breath as though he had been running upstairs, with his hands in his trouser pockets, seemed intent only on disavowals. “People come here and talk. It does them good, and sometimes I am able to offer a suggestion.

    The Secret Places of the Heart by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells
  • And to end,–a word about Phonographers. It may be that my title has led the reader to anticipate some mention of these before. They are a kind of religious sect, a heresy from the orthodox spelling. They bind one another by their mysteries and a five-shilling subscription in a “soseiti to introduis an impruvd method of spelinj.” They come across the artistic vision, they and their Soseiti, with an altogether indefinable offence. Perhaps the essence of it is the indescribable meanness of their motive. For this phonography really amounts to a study of the cheapest way of spelling words. These phonographers are sweaters of the Queen’s English, living meanly on the selvage of honest mental commerce by clipping the coin of thought. But enough of them. They are mentioned here only to be disavowed. They would substitute one narrow orthodoxy for another, and I would unfold the banner of freedom. Spell, my brethren, as you will! Awake, arise, O language living in chains; let Butter’s spelling be our Bastille! So with a prophetic vision of liberated words pouring out of the dungeons of a spelling-book, this plea for freedom concludes. What trivial arguments there are for a uniform spelling I must leave the reader to discover. This is no place to carp against the liberation I foresee, with the glow of the dawn in my eyes.

    Certain Personal Matters by H. G. (Herbert George) Wells