missionary

1 of 2

noun

mis·​sion·​ary ˈmi-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce missionary (audio)
plural missionaries
: a person undertaking a mission and especially a religious mission
Several years ago, when I was working as a reporter based in Haiti, I came upon a group of older Christian missionaries in the mountains above Port-au-Prince … They were there to build a school alongside a Methodist church.Jacob Kushner
Hawaiian Pidgin English developed during the 1800s and early 1900s, when immigrant laborers from China, Portugal, and the Philippines arrived to work in the plantations; American missionaries also came around that time.Alia Wong

missionary

2 of 2

adjective

1
: relating to, engaged in, or devoted to missions
2
: characteristic of a missionary

Did you know?

Beginning around 1540, an order of Catholic priests known as the Jesuits began to send its members to many parts of the world to convert peoples who believed in other gods to Christianity. Wherever they went, the Catholic missionaries built central buildings for their religious work, and the buildings themselves became known as missions; many 17th-century missions in the American West and Southwest are now preserved as museums. Their foes, the Protestants, soon began sending out their own missionaries, and today Protestant missionaries are probably far more numerous.

Examples of missionary in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
And five men born in Latin America have played in the league (though only Robyn Regehr, who was born in Brazil to Canadian missionaries, appeared in a game after 1990). Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 21 Feb. 2024 Starting in the 1830s, when the Christian missionaries arrived in force, locals faced unprecedented pressures to abandon the ceremony, look, and cultural authority of tattoos. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 10 Feb. 2024 Pickett also built her novel around the family history of a missionary from Cache Valley, Utah, where the novel is set. Jackie Hoermann, Kansas City Star, 1 Feb. 2024 The discoveries date to the 19th century, when missionaries lived on the islands. Moira Ritter, Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024 The purchases were made in the months leading to Oct. 17, 2021, the day after 17 American and Canadian missionaries were kidnapped by the gang and held for $1 million ransom each. Jacqueline Charles and, Miami Herald, 1 Feb. 2024 Scorsese’s humility and his body of work — in particular his 2016 movie Silence, which depicted Christian missionaries in 17th century Japan — helped reassure Standing Bear and others that the project was intended to be a serious and respectful one. Rebecca Keegan, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Dec. 2023 In Alabama, Derrick attended predominantly white schools, and most of his friends are white; Brittany briefly worked as a missionary in Niger before teaching in Birmingham’s city schools. Paige Williams, The New Yorker, 2 Oct. 2023 In prison, Hancock started to receive visits from missionaries, a common occurrence. Emma Goldberg Desiree Rios, New York Times, 21 Jan. 2024
Adjective
Throughout the world, Catholicism is largely hierarchical, with priests and religious sisters doing most evangelical and missionary work. Tim Busch, National Review, 23 Dec. 2023 In one particularly striking scene, a white missionary woman invites him to discuss his salvation at her church group’s residence—a bungalow lined with banana trees that turns out to be his own former home. Julian Lucas, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2023 The first – only a missionary motivation of this kind can justify the sacrifices, the hierarchical deprivations, the regional desolation, that Putin asks of his population. Melik Kaylan, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 Chau had trained in Kansas City with a missionary group called All Nations, their actors role-playing tribal encounters—rushing out with mock weapons as a coach monitored Chau’s reactions. Jordan Castro, Harper's Magazine, 5 Jan. 2024 But Kissinger never conceded as much, even after eight years of working for a missionary state and spending most of his adult life in a missionary country, and that was his folly. Christian Schneider, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 Ultimately, the teacher settled on a crew of a teenage girl, a missionary, two cats, and his own dog, Cyclops. Liz Clayton Fuller, Popular Science, 27 Sep. 2023 Today, that haystack vigil is marked by a Berkshires-quarried marble obelisk topped by an orb, a symbol of the global missionary vision of the young Puritan men who huddled there — for whom neither New England nor the New World were sufficient. Andrew Doran, National Review, 12 Nov. 2023 The film expands into a debate on the ethics of missionary Christianity. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'missionary.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Noun

1623, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of missionary was in 1623

Dictionary Entries Near missionary

Cite this Entry

“Missionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/missionary. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

missionary

1 of 2 adjective
mis·​sion·​ary ˈmish-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce missionary (audio)
1
: relating to, engaged in, or devoted to missions
2
: characteristic of a missionary : zealous

missionary

2 of 2 noun
plural missionaries
: one sent to spread a religious faith among unbelievers or to engage in charitable work with religious support
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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