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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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 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 But few had ever bothered to get inside the mind of the shady functionary who swindled the public garbage fund. New York Times, 17 May 2021 The Society of Editors got their chief functionary to say there is absolutely nothing bigoted or racist about the British press. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2021 In the 1990s, the remnants of a crumbling Yugoslav state returned the land following the rise to power of Slobodan Milosevic, an atheist communist functionary who had metamorphosed into a champion of Serbian nationalism and the Serb Orthodox Church. New York Times, 13 Mar. 2021 Bachmann was born in Klagenfurt, Austria, the daughter of a Nazi functionary who served in Hitler’s Army. Ruth Franklin, The New Yorker, 16 Nov. 2020 Dinkins paid his dues as a Democratic functionary while earning a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, then went into private practice. CBS News, 24 Nov. 2020 Dinkins paid his dues as a Democratic functionary while earning a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and then went into private practice. Deepti Hajela, USA TODAY, 24 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for functionary

Time Traveler

The first known use of functionary was circa 1785

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Statistics for functionary

Last Updated

27 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Functionary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for functionary



English Language Learners Definition of functionary

: a person who works for a government or political party

More from Merriam-Webster on functionary

Nglish: Translation of functionary for Spanish Speakers


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