fu·​gi·​tive | \ ˈfyü-jə-tiv How to pronounce fugitive (audio) \

Definition of fugitive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : running away or intending flight a fugitive slave a fugitive debtor
2 : moving from place to place : wandering the fugitive clouds of the sky— K. K. Darrow
3a : being of short duration the journalist … is concerned only with the fugitive moment— A. L. Guerard
b : difficult to grasp or retain : elusive thought is clear or muddy, graspable or fugitive— J. M. Barzun
c : likely to evaporate, deteriorate, change, fade, or disappear dyed with fugitive colors
4 : being of transient (see transient entry 1 sense 1) interest fugitive essays



Definition of fugitive (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person who flees or tries to escape: such as
a : a person who flees a country or location to escape danger (such as war) or persecution : refugee
b : a person (such as a suspect, witness, or defendant) involved in a criminal case who tries to elude law enforcement especially by fleeing the jurisdiction

called also fugitive from justice

2 : something elusive or hard to find

Other Words from fugitive


fugitively adverb
fugitiveness noun

Synonyms for fugitive

Synonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for fugitive


transient, transitory, ephemeral, momentary, fugitive, fleeting, evanescent mean lasting or staying only a short time. transient applies to what is actually short in its duration or stay. a hotel catering primarily to transient guests transitory applies to what is by its nature or essence bound to change, pass, or come to an end. fame in the movies is transitory ephemeral implies striking brevity of life or duration. many slang words are ephemeral momentary suggests coming and going quickly and therefore being merely a brief interruption of a more enduring state. my feelings of guilt were only momentary fugitive and fleeting imply passing so quickly as to make apprehending difficult. let a fugitive smile flit across his face fleeting moments of joy evanescent suggests a quick vanishing and an airy or fragile quality. the story has an evanescent touch of whimsy that is lost in translation

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Fugitive was adopted into English as both a noun and an adjective in the 14th century from the Latin adjective fugitivus, which itself comes from the verb fugere, meaning “to flee.”

Examples of fugitive in a Sentence

Adjective As he daydreamed, fugitive thoughts passed through his mind. that fugitive trait called artistic creativity Noun They discovered that he was a fugitive of the law.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That prompted the fugitive task force to come to the hotel to keep eyes on the car, Wedding said. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 11 May 2022 Dominic Taddeo, 64, was apprehended without incident by U.S. marshals and members of a regional fugitive task force at about 11 a.m. in Hialeah, a city in Miami-Dade County, officials said. NBC News, 5 Apr. 2022 Federal law now forced free states to aid in the return of fugitive slaves, and Northern opinion hardened decisively. Marc M. Arkin, WSJ, 6 Feb. 2022 These groups evolved into militias such as the Texas Rangers, which prosecuted war against the Karankawa, Cherokee, and Comanche tribal nations, pursued fugitive slaves into Mexico, and established control over ethnic Mexican communities. Alicia Schmidt Camacho, The New Yorker, 19 Jan. 2022 She was arrested on a fugitive warrant in connection with the out-of-state homicide. David Hernandez, San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Mar. 2022 The Boston Police Department’s fugitive unit made immediate inroads into the case Saturday, according to court testimony, after speaking with many of the defendant’s co-workers and witnesses from the scene. Meghan Ottolini, chicagotribune.com, 21 Mar. 2022 Norman believed Hamley was a fugitive searching for a gun, but Hamley had toy balls in his pocket. Teresa Moss, Arkansas Online, 19 Mar. 2022 Shmuel, seething with suspicion, secretly follows Zalmy on one of his fugitive outings. Los Angeles Times, 14 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun As time passed without any leads on their whereabouts, investigators released images of the jailer and the fugitive to highlight their stark height difference. Faith Karimi, CNN, 13 May 2022 The search was on for a hulking fugitive, a jailer and their orange car. CBS News, 12 May 2022 The search was on for a hulking fugitive, a jailer and their orange car. Michael Balsamo, Anchorage Daily News, 11 May 2022 But the fugitive's plans were hampered when U.S. marshals used their vehicles to push Casey and Vicky White's Cadillac into a ditch. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, 10 May 2022 Her character is first introduced as Ruth Clayton, an Earth civilian whom The Doctor shows up to protect from an alien fugitive. Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY, 8 May 2022 But rural West Limestone, 30 miles from the nearest town, and dotted with a mix of forests, farmland, hills and hollows, could be an ideal place for a fugitive to hide out, according to area residents as well as former investigators. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, 4 May 2022 Broward prosecutors are no longer seeking the death penalty for Dayonte Resiles, the former fugitive who was convicted in March of first-degree murder in the brutal stabbing death of Davie homeowner and volunteer Jill Halliburton Su. Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel, 29 Apr. 2022 Trafigura dates back to a bust-up in 1993 at Marc Rich & Co., run by trader and fugitive from U.S. justice Marc Rich. Joe Wallace, WSJ, 28 Apr. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of fugitive


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fugitive

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French fugitif, from Latin fugitivus, from fugitus, past participle of fugere to flee; akin to Greek pheugein to flee

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The first known use of fugitive was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near fugitive



fugitive from justice

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Statistics for fugitive

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fugitive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fugitive. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for fugitive


fu·​gi·​tive | \ ˈfyü-jə-tiv How to pronounce fugitive (audio) \

Kids Definition of fugitive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: running away or trying to escape a fugitive prisoner



Kids Definition of fugitive (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is running away


fu·​gi·​tive | \ ˈfyü-jət-iv How to pronounce fugitive (audio) \

Medical Definition of fugitive

: tending to be inconstant or transient fugitive aches and pains— Berton Roueche


fu·​gi·​tive | \ ˈfyü-jə-tiv \

Legal Definition of fugitive

: a person who flees especially : a person who flees one jurisdiction (as a state) for another in order to elude law enforcement personnel

More from Merriam-Webster on fugitive

Nglish: Translation of fugitive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fugitive for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fugitive


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