missbrauchen: to abuse (in the sense of “misuse” or “cruelly misuse”; not in the sense of “insult”)

Examples and Usage Notes Mnemonics
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Examples and Usage Notes:

  • “Missbrauchen” means abuse in the sense of using something in a manner inconsistent with the intended use (for objects as well as things like power and wealth)
  • “Missbrauchen” also means sexually abuse (especially children)
  • “Abuse” in the sense of insult is beleidigen.
  • “Missbrauchen” cannot be used to mean “overuse,” or “use carelessly and destructively.”  You would use a descriptive phrase to convey this.
Er missbraucht die Pillen. He is abusing the pills.
Das Klonen könnte leicht missbraucht werden. Cloning could easily be abused.
Wer Kinder missbraucht, muß lange ins Gefängnis. Anyone who sexually abuses children hast to go to
prison for a long time.
Hör auf, mich zu beleidigen! Stop abusing me!
Der Kopierer ist kaputt, weil man ihn zu oft benutzt hat. The copier is broken because it was abused [overused].
Er geht mit seinen Sachen so brutal um, daß alles kaputtgeht. He abuses his things so much [uses them so destructively],
that they all break.


  • miss-” sounds like “mis-” as in “misuse“; you know “brauchen” means “to need,” but it also means “to use”; you could also notice that “brauchen” sounds a bit like “break,” and breaking something would perhaps be a way of misusing it…