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

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 And after that: the title role in Kasi Lemmons’s Harriet, about Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery to become a powerful abolitionist. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Tony Award winning Cynthia Erivo on Taking the Leap from Stage to Screen," 17 Oct. 2018 Meghan is the first woman to hold the title of Duchess of Sussex, but there has previously been one other Duke, Prince Augustus Frederick in the 18th century, who was a noted abolitionist. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Meghan Markle Just Arrived in Sussex Wearing a Green Leather Pencil Skirt," 3 Oct. 2018 Though Hamilton was known to oppose slavery, scholars dispute whether Hamilton was truly an abolitionist. Erin B. Logan, Washington Post, "Alexander Hamilton, immigrant and statesman, dies at 47 — or 49," 12 July 2018 Though some people in Clermont County were abolitionists and provided shelter on the Underground Railroad, others fought any attempt by African-Americans to lift themselves and wanted to keep them down, Roberts said. Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati.com, "Was man lynched in retribution for banker's death a drifter or man resented for success?," 1 May 2018 As the nation and world commemorate the 200th birthday anniversary of Frederick Douglass, descendants of the famed abolitionist, statesman, orator and ambassador are preserving his historic legacy with new, 21st Century initiatives. Essence.com, "EXCLUSIVE: The Descendants Of Frederick Douglass Are Still Carrying His Abolitionist Spirit," 14 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Julia Ward Howe, a well-to-do Northern abolitionist and poet, heard the tune that autumn while observing Union troops in Virginia. Marc Tracy, New York Times, "Recognize That Tune? It’s the Northern Accent of Georgia Football," 8 Jan. 2018 Quilts have been made for the abolitionist, temperance and environmental movements and, more recently, in response to gun violence. Mark Pratt, latimes.com, "Migrant Quilt Project brings border tragedies to the surface, stitch by stitch," 7 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.

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

Share abolitionist

Statistics for abolitionist

Last Updated

15 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for abolitionist

The first known use of abolitionist was in 1791

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for abolitionist


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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


to make faulty or ineffective

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!