Difference Between Abuse and Misuse

Main Difference – Abuse vs Misuse

Abuse and misuse describe the way in which something is used. But both verbs indicate a wrong or inappropriate use. They mean to use something in the wrong way or for the wrong purpose. However, abuse indicates a more serious improper use than misuse. In addition, abuse of a thing, a person is considered an offense whereas misuse of a thing is not considered an offense. This is the main difference between abuse and misuse.

Abuse – Meaning and Usage

Abuse can have several meanings. It can mean to use someone’s power in a bad way or for a bad purpose. The term abuse of power is an example of this meaning. Abuse of power means using the power in a wrong way. Abuse also means to treat with cruelty or violence. Terms like domestic abuse, child abuse stem from this meaning. Speaking to someone in an offensive or insulting way can also be termed as abuse.

The two terms abuse and misuse are also used in the context of drugs. Drug abuse refers to the habitual and excessive use of drugs.

Unlike misuse, abuse is most often intentional and has serious consequences. Abuse is often an offense. Abuse is always associated with negative connotations than misuse.

Difference Between Abuse and Misuse

Speak against Abuse!

Misuse – Meaning and Usage

Misuse also refers to using something in a wrong way or for a wrong purpose. However, misuse is often an unintentional mistake. When something is used for some purpose other than its original or intended use, we say that object is being misused. Although misuse is wrong, it is not associated with many negative connotations as abuse. Misuse is the less serious of the two, and it is not an offense. Moreover, the term misuse is often used in relation to objects and concepts. This is not commonly used with people.

The term drug misuse refers to using a prescription for a purpose other than the one for which it was intended. This can be either intentional or unintentional.

Main Difference - Abuse vs Misuse

Locking pliers being misused as a knob on an espresso machine.

Difference Between Abuse and Misuse


Abuse refers to using something in a wrong way, for a wrong purpose or treating someone with cruelty and violence.

Misuse refers to using something in a wrong way or for a wrong purpose.


Abuse has more negative connotations than misuse.

Misuse has less negative connotations than abuse.


Abuse is the more serious or grave of the two verbs.

Misuse is less serious than abuse.


Abuse is an offense.

Misuse is not an offense.


Abuse is often intentional.

Misuse can be intentional or unintentional.

People vs things

Abuse is more commonly used with people.

Misuse is often used with nonliving things.


Abuse of drugs refers to a repetitive and willful habit of taking drugs for the purpose of pleasure, ecstasy, etc.

Misuse of drugs refers to the use of a prescription for a purpose other than the one for which it was intended.Difference Between Abuse and Misuse -infographic

Image Courtesy:

“Protest against abuse” by Global Panorama (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
“Locking pliers “by Autopilot – Own work, (CC BY-SA 4.0)  via Commons Wikimedia 

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