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

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 When Leshchenko arrived at headquarters, a functionary told him that the plans were already scrambled. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 8 Sep. 2022 No one is ever allowed to be just a plot functionary. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 2 June 2022 Mulvaney, a long-time Republican functionary, distinguished himself during his tenure in the administration as a loyal Trump lackey. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 31 Mar. 2022 Some city functionary has taped a paper on the wall with the number to call for the key in off hours, which in this case is anytime before 8 p.m. Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2022 In my case, as a functionary in the script, Rasputin has to be like this oncoming weather system that is darkening the world of The King’s Men. Simon Thompson, Forbes, 23 Dec. 2021 In 1934, Sergei Kirov, a leading Bolshevik functionary, was shot dead in Leningrad. The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2021 India’s foreign minister offered condolences, but even a high government functionary could not come to the former diplomat’s rescue. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 23 June 2021 Think of Lois Lerner, the IRS functionary who for several years managed to deprive conservative nonprofits of their free-speech rights. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, 10 June 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of functionary

circa 1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of functionary was circa 1785

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Functionary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on functionary

Nglish: Translation of functionary for Spanish Speakers


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