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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 Two cabinet ministers resigned, and several junior ministers and party functionaries followed them. The Economist, "What doesn’t kill her makes Theresa May stronger," 12 July 2018 Should such a beautifully ephemeral creature really have to truncate her fleeting cultural moment, so some functionaries in suits can protect their revenue flow? Watch Ogunbowale. Sally Jenkins,, "As Arike Ogunbowale dances with gusto, the NCAA sidesteps with cowardice," 2 May 2018 Though of the highest Brahmin caste, his family was desperately poor, his father only able to work intermittently as a low-level government functionary due to chronic health problems. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "We Are Scientists," 5 June 2018 For Erdogan, the betrayal led him to lean increasingly on an inner circle of advisers and functionaries whose main qualification for their jobs is loyalty., "Bloomberg," 18 May 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.

See More

First Known Use of functionary

circa 1785, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about functionary

Statistics for functionary

Last Updated

20 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for functionary

The first known use of functionary was circa 1785

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for functionary



English Language Learners Definition of functionary

: a person who works for a government or political party

Keep scrolling for more

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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!