func·​tion·​ary | \ ˈfəŋ(k)-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce functionary (audio) \
plural functionaries

Definition of functionary

1 : one who serves in a certain function
2 : one holding office in a government or political party

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Did You Know?

For most of us, being described as a functionary wouldn't be a compliment. The word refers especially to a person of lower rank, with little or no authority, who must carry out someone else's orders. Bureaucrat is often a synonym. However, functionary can also refer to the world beyond government and offices; a character in a play, for example, could be called a functionary if it was obvious that her sole function was to keep the plot moving.

Examples of functionary in a Sentence

He was a party functionary during the political campaign. spoke to high-ranking functionaries at the embassy in the hopes that they could help

Recent Examples on the Web

In comparison, what AOC or Ilhan Omar says is mostly irrelevant, as is the most recent bombast abroad from an Iranian theocrat, a Russian functionary, or a Maoist in China. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "The Economy, Father of Us All," 23 July 2019 The film of tomorrow won’t be made by functionaries of cinema but by artists for whom the shoot will constitute a formidable and exalted adventure. . . . Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "The Truffaut Essays That Clear Up Misguided Notions of Auteurism," 8 June 2019 In total, 52 players, two managers and six club functionaries were incriminated and later punished with varying degrees of severity., "50 of the Biggest Controversies in Football History," 21 June 2019 Before the lesson on Hrushevsky is finished, a school functionary arrives to say that class is canceled; the students have to nail together voting booths for the upcoming presidential election. Sophie Pinkham, The New York Review of Books, "Ukraine’s New Leading Man," 17 June 2019 Then the famous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian functionaries was supposed to be proof of collusion, but nothing more has come of that. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Michael Cohen Show," 29 Nov. 2018 This week, technocrats and functionaries gathered to discuss economic policy, making decisions that will determine the near-term prospects of the eurozone economy. Mike Bird, WSJ, "Europe Has Outsourced Economic Policy to China," 8 Mar. 2019 The meetings in North Korea on Sunday, which were first reported by The Washington Post, reflected Mr. Trump’s willingness to turn to diplomats and functionaries with decades of experience and deep ties to former President George W. Bush. New York Times, "U.S. and North Korean Officials Race to Resurrect Trump-Kim Meeting," 27 May 2018 In the film, a functionary of the Spanish government waits at a remote South American outpost for new orders. Mark Olsen,, "Indie Focus: Summer sneaks plus 'Zama,' 'Disobedience,' and 'Duck Butter'," 29 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'functionary.' 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 functionary

circa 1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for functionary

Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for functionary

The first known use of functionary was circa 1785

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English Language Learners Definition of functionary

: a person who works for a government or political party

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More from Merriam-Webster on functionary

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with functionary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for functionary

Spanish Central: Translation of functionary

Nglish: Translation of functionary for Spanish Speakers

Comments on functionary

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


to move or obtain by small maneuvers

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