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

As a wall label indicates, the song was written in 1779 by John Newton, a white English slave trader who experienced a spiritual conversion before becoming an abolitionist. Steven Litt, cleveland.com, "An urgent look at 400 years of history: ‘Black Atlantic’ exhibit in Oberlin explores impact of slavery," 25 Aug. 2019 In 1844, abolitionist Johnathan Walker was caught trying to free seven slaves from Florida. al, "Slaves arrived in America, and Alabama, years before 1619," 23 Aug. 2019 Experts note the painting portrays the enslaved African as a passive victim, seeking freedom from morally righteous abolitionists. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "A restored painting by 18th-century abolitionists shows the power of a political logo," 22 Aug. 2019 But by the mid-eighteen-fifties, at least on paper, Barnum had become an abolitionist. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, "What P. T. Barnum Understood About America," 29 July 2019 This explains why early American abolitionists viewed the slave trade clause as a great antislavery victory. Nicholas Guyatt, The New York Review of Books, "‘No Property in Man’: An Exchange," 6 June 2019 Shumard notes that the group portrait had previously been exhibited in relation to two of its better-known sitters, abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Gerrit Smith. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "How the Camera Introduced Americans to Their Heroines," 9 July 2019 In June the former military officer outlined his Douglass plan named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Unveils Walker-Lewis Plan Aimed At Encouraging Black Entrepreneurship," 8 July 2019 In 1833, the abolitionist James Pennington began teaching at the school in Newtown’s African-American community. Kaya Laterman, New York Times, "This Empty Lot Is Worth Millions. It’s Also an African-American Burial Ground.," 14 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In Wilentz’s telling, the secret to understanding the Constitution’s abolitionist subtext lies in James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention of 1787, posthumously published in 1840. John Hirschauer, National Review, "What a Princeton Historian’s Critics Get Wrong about the Constitution and Slavery," 27 Aug. 2019 Audience members participated by reading quotes from activists like the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and abolitionist Prince Hall. Abigail Feldman, BostonGlobe.com, "On slavery’s 400th anniversary, a day of healing at Faneuil Hall," 25 Aug. 2019 Last year, during the inaugural Women’s E3 Summit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Oprah Winfrey strode on stage and channeled the famous 1851 speech of abolitionist Sojourner Truth. Donna M. Owens, Essence, "Museum Summit For Black Women Draws Yara Shahidi, Stacey Abrams And More," 17 June 2019 Over the weekend, there will be many other opportunities to consider Boston’s role in the slave trade and the abolitionist movement, as the Park Service hosts free events examining multiple aspects of African-American history. Jeremy C. Fox, BostonGlobe.com, "Events planned in Boston for ‘National Day of Healing’ to explore toll of slavery on 400th anniversary," 21 Aug. 2019 New Yorker The Underground Railroad’s complex history After Colson Whitehead’s magnificent novel The Underground Railroad debuted, there was renewed interest in the history of the abolitionist network that helped slaves journey North to freedom. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "The New York Times Launches the 1619 Project: raceAhead," 14 Aug. 2019 The abolitionist movement was strong in New England, so the flexible Lyman concocted a new story: the proceeds from the act were going to purchase the freedom of Heth’s great-grandchildren, back in Kentucky. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, "What P. T. Barnum Understood About America," 29 July 2019 We're used to seeing abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman as an older woman, her legacy as one of the most important figures in American history cemented by her many achievements. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "Cynthia Erivo Is Ready For Her Oscar In The Harriet Tubman Biopic Trailer," 25 July 2019 The small but mighty Museum of African American History honors the life and work of the African American community who lived on the north slope of Beacon Hill in the 19th century and propelled the abolitionist and civil rights movements forward. Elizabeth Wellington, Condé Nast Traveler, "12 Best Museums in Boston You'll Want To Visit," 17 July 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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17 Sep 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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Nglish: Translation of abolitionist for Spanish Speakers

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concealment of treason or felony

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