ab·​o·​li·​tion·​ist | \ ˌa-bə-ˈli-shə-nist How to pronounce abolitionist (audio) \
plural abolitionists

Definition of abolitionist

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who wants to stop or abolish slavery : an advocate of abolition Before going to England I had had no proper conception of the deep interest displayed by the abolitionists of England in the cause of freedom, nor did I realize the amount of substantial help given by them.— Booker T. Washington On the spectrum of abhorrent business practices, buying and selling humans, especially children, remains the gold standard. Yet modern abolitionists say it happens all the time.— Belinda Luscombe While with him at an antislavery convention in London, which shocked her by barring women as delegates, she found her ideal model in another delegate, Lucretia Mott, the noted Quaker abolitionist and feminist.— Milton Rugoff



Definition of abolitionist (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or supporting abolitionists or abolitionism : advocating the end of slavery abolitionist writings … the virulence of public reaction to antislavery activity in the East appears to have been a reason for the deployment of abolitionist resources and energies into the Middle West.— Marilynne Robinson … he was genuinely concerned with the poor, and an aggressive supporter of abolitionist causes and women's education.— Jesse Sheidlower

Examples of abolitionist in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist orator and publisher, and Antonio Maceo, the celebrated military hero of the Cuban independence movement, are rarely if ever mentioned together. Griffin Black, Scientific American, "The Whitewashing of Black Genius," 12 Oct. 2020 This stranger turns out to be none other than the fearsome white abolitionist John Brown, who instigates a gunfight with Onion’s owner. Carvell Wallace, New York Times, "‘The Good Lord Bird’ Is Good TV. But Mix Art and Slavery at Your Peril.," 6 Oct. 2020 Historian Scott Gac reports that two years prior to Lind’s visit, the leading abolitionist paper, The Liberator, raised money through the sale of medallions with the likeness of Lind. Bryan Greene, Smithsonian Magazine, "When Opera Star Jenny Lind Came to America, She Witnessed a Nation Torn Apart Over Slavery," 6 Oct. 2020 The narrator’s grandfather, also a Reverend John Ames, was a radical abolitionist who went west to the Kansas Territory from Maine in the decades before the Civil War. Casey Cep, The New Yorker, "Marilynne Robinson’s Essential American Stories," 25 Sep. 2020 Haydt, the California death penalty abolitionist, has been pressing Catholic officials in the state to speak out against the award and clarify the church’s position against executions, so far with little luck. Jason Fagone, SFChronicle.com, "‘Big blowup’ in Catholic Church as Trump attorney general is honored despite approving executions," 21 Sep. 2020 So said the great nineteenth-century former slave and staunch abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., in 1876. Kenan Malik, The New York Review of Books, "When Monuments Fall," 9 Sep. 2020 The bill would rename the District as Washington Frederick Douglass State, named after the famed abolitionist and author. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "House Democrats vote to make DC the 51st state," 26 June 2020 In this case, the argument is between abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in 1863 and 1864. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Race, rebellion, art and death at the heart of local virtual theater shows," 28 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The abolitionist position forces us to reimagine what the world would look like without jails or prisons. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "Can America move beyond mass incarceration? (audio)," 14 Sep. 2020 Brown attended the prestigious Tuggle Elementary School, founded in 1903 as a school for homeless Black boys by the abolitionist Carrie A. Tuggle. Jesse Dorris, The New Yorker, "How DeForrest Brown, Jr., Centers the Black Body in Techno Music," 15 Aug. 2020 Although the pair had collaborated with Frederick Douglass closely on various abolitionist endeavors, their friendship soured when Stanton and Anthony refused to support the 15th Amendment. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why the First Monument of Real Women in Central Park Matters—and Why It’s Controversial," 26 Aug. 2020 Despite their roots in abolitionist movements, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony refused to support the 15th Amendment, which gave Black men the right to vote. Christina Ewig, Star Tribune, "100 years later, today's activists can learn from suffrage movement," 7 Aug. 2020 Fought said Douglass' white contemporaries in particular judged her harshly for being illiterate and not being a part of the abolitionist movement in the same way her husband was. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, "Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and became a famed abolitionist. His first wife made that possible," 7 July 2020 The movement got its start in abolitionist circles during the mid-19th century when most married women lacked basic property rights. Lila Thulin, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Thorny Road to the 19th Amendment," 18 Mar. 2020 Because abolitionist work didn't pay very well, Douglass helped earn money for her family by doing laundry and mending shoes, Fought said. N'dea Yancey-bragg, USA TODAY, "Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and became a famed abolitionist. His first wife made that possible," 7 July 2020 Many white Americans may not be familiar with the famous speech given by abolitionist icon Frederick Douglass on July 5,1852, before a largely white audience. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "Will Fourth of July ever be the same? Not if we're fortunate enough to evolve as a nation," 4 July 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'abolitionist.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of abolitionist


1791, in the meaning defined above


1833, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about abolitionist

Time Traveler for abolitionist

Time Traveler

The first known use of abolitionist was in 1791

See more words from the same year

Statistics for abolitionist

Last Updated

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Abolitionist.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abolitionist. Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abolitionist


How to pronounce abolitionist (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of abolitionist

: a person who wants to stop or abolish slavery


ab·​o·​li·​tion·​ist | \ ˌa-bə-ˈli-shə-nist \

Kids Definition of abolitionist

: a person favoring the abolition of slavery

More from Merriam-Webster on abolitionist

Nglish: Translation of abolitionist for Spanish Speakers

Comments on abolitionist

What made you want to look up abolitionist? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!