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

To state the obvious: Christians were found among both the abolitionists and the secessionists, the segregationists and the Freedom Riders. Ezra Klein, Vox, "The political tribalism of Andrew Sullivan," 11 Dec. 2018 To the ne’er-do-wells who scrawled a racist slur and other crudities on the marble likeness of abolitionist John Brown at the Quindaro ruins: Thank you. kansascity, "Vandals may have defaced John Brown statue, but they can’t scar Quindaro’s significance," 19 Mar. 2018 Their second son's namesakes include minister Matthew Henry and abolitionist William Wilberforce. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "See Jessa Duggar Seewald's Pregnancy Announcement Photo," 9 Jan. 2019 Roberts has a copy of an 1894 letter Anderson wrote to James K. Parker, an abolitionist and the principal of the Clermont Academy in Clermontville. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "Was man lynched in retribution for banker's death a drifter or man resented for success?," 1 May 2018 Ann Wilson and her two siblings are the descendants of abolitionists George Corson and Martha Maulsby Corson, who provided runaway slaves with food and a safe place to hide on their property. Katie Park, Philly.com, "Once an Underground Railroad stop, Montgomery County property may soon be filled with townhouses," 5 June 2018 So the Wilsons — who own and live on the 10-acre site, once a safe house on the Underground Railroad and a meeting house for abolitionists — say it’s time to sell. Katie Park, Philly.com, "Once an Underground Railroad stop, Montgomery County property may soon be filled with townhouses," 5 June 2018 The area was a settlement for Native Americans and, during the Civil War, a haven for abolitionists and black people who escaped enslavement. Sean Knight, Glamour, "Janelle Monáe Knows She Has Your Attention. Get Ready for What's Next.," 5 Nov. 2018 Abolitionism and abolitionists are more deeply understood. Joanne B. Freeman, WSJ, "Five Best: Joanne B. Freeman on Books About the Crisis of the 1850s," 20 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In exchange for tattoos of cotton flowers or abolitionist leaders, patrons recorded a video discussing the history behind their selections, which were shown in the waiting room. New York Times, "Artist Doreen Garner Uses Tattoos to Explore Black Bodies," 11 May 2018 John Brown, the abolitionist revolutionary, was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia on grounds of levying war after his raid on Harpers Ferry. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Michael Flynn’s judge suggested he might be guilty of treason. He’s not.," 18 Dec. 2018 Why not put statues of abolitionist warriors such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth alongside Confederates such as Robert E. Lee and Wade Hampton III? The Root, "Tracing Your Roots: My Confederate Ancestor Is on Monuments; Who Did He Own?," 23 Feb. 2018 But the proposed prison strike also gestures toward — and helps to create — an abolitionist political horizon, one that does not rely on cages to solve social problems. Stephanie Onderchanin, Teen Vogue, "How the National Prison Strike Is Working to Help Incarcerated People in the United States," 21 Aug. 2018 Even Horace Greeley, the abolitionist editor of the New York Daily Tribune, now called for reconciliation and put up $25,000 of his own money for Davis’s bail. Fergus M. Bordewich, WSJ, "‘The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee’ Review: The Cost of Conciliation," 12 July 2018 Grimmette will perform Saturday at the Crofton Community Library as the Marylander who rose up from slavery to become an abolitionist leader and famous speaker. Janene Holzberg, baltimoresun.com, "For Gambrills resident Bill Grimmette, portrayal of Frederick Douglass pays homage to a pioneer of justice," 13 July 2018 At the time, the nascent women’s movement was firmly integrated with the abolitionist movement: The leaders were all abolitionists, and Frederick Douglass spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention, arguing for women’s suffrage. Constance Grady, Vox, "The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained," 1 June 2018 At the Annenberg, a copy of the earliest photograph of Abraham Lincoln now hangs beside a young Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and former slave. Steve Appleford, latimes.com, "From 14 million photos in the Library of Congress, she chose 440 to tell the story of America," 18 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of abolitionist


1791, in the meaning defined above


1833, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

10 Mar 2019

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The first known use of abolitionist was in 1791

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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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with abolitionist

Nglish: Translation of abolitionist for Spanish Speakers

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a shady place in a garden or forest

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