Recuse - recusal - recusant - recusance - recusancy

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The words recuse, recusal, recusant, recusance, and recusancy all derive from the Latin verb recusare, 'to refuse', 'to decline', 'to be reluctant', and in a legal context, 'to object', 'to plead in defence'. However, these five words, while having in common the idea of refusal or rejection, nonetheless form two distinct groups, distinguished by differences in pronunciation and in the contexts of their use.

Recuse and recusal have the stress on the second syllable, which has a long vowel, IPA: /rɪ (or rə) 'kjuːz, rɪ (or rə) 'kjuː zəl/, while recusant, recusance, and recusancy have the stress on the first syllable and the second vowel is short, IPA: /'rɛ kjʊ zənt, 'rɛ kjʊ zəns, 'rɛ kjʊ zən sɪ/.

The verb ‘to recuse’ and the related noun recusal are used in the context of legal or quasi-legal proceedings. To recuse a judge or a member of the jury is to reject them, i.e., to have them removed from involvement in a particular case because of a possible conflict of interest or because, for some other reason, e.g., well-known views on related issues, their impartiality may be doubted. The verb is also used reflexively: a judge may recuse himself or herself from a case on the grounds that their fitness to hear it is likely to be challenged.

Recusant, recusance, and recusancy are used primarily in the context of English history of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. During this period a recusant was a person who, as a member of the Roman Catholic Church, refused to obey the law and attend the services of the Church of England. Recusant is also used as an adjective to describe such a person, and the related abstract nouns, recusance and recusancy, denote their practice of refusing to obey the law. Recusant, either as a noun or as an adjective, is sometimes used more generally of any person who will not submit to authority.