verb (1)
re·​form | \ ri-ˈfȯrm How to pronounce reform (audio) \
reformed; reforming; reforms

Essential Meaning of reform

1 : to improve (someone or something) by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc. The program is designed to reform prisoners. They want to reform campaign spending. The laws need to be reformed.
2 : to improve your own behavior or habits The program is designed to help former gang members who are trying to reform.

Full Definition of reform

 (Entry 1 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to put or change into an improved form or condition
b : to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses
2 : to put an end to (an evil) by enforcing or introducing a better method or course of action
3 : to induce or cause to abandon evil ways reform a drunkard
4a : to subject (hydrocarbons) to cracking
b : to produce (gasoline, gas, etc.) by cracking

intransitive verb

: to become changed for the better



Definition of reform (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : amendment of what is defective, vicious, corrupt, or depraved
2 : removal or correction of errors or of an abuse or a wrong
3 capitalized : reform judaism



Definition of reform (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : relating to or favoring reform All of the great American reform movements—from civil rights to child-labor laws—started far from Washington, D.C. In state legislatures and town halls …— William Greider
2 Reform : of, relating to, or practicing Reform Judaism Reform Jews, by the end of the nineteenth century, had adopted the custom of rising to their feet to pronounce the Shema in unison.— Jonathan D. Sarna


verb (2)
\ (ˌ)rē-ˈfȯrm How to pronounce re-form (audio) \
re-formed; re-forming; re-forms

Definition of re-form (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

: to form again

intransitive verb

: to take form again the ice re-formed on the lake

Other Words from reform

Verb (1)

reformability \ ri-​ˌfȯr-​mə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce re-form (audio) \ noun
reformable \ ri-​ˈfȯr-​mə-​bəl How to pronounce re-form (audio) \ adjective

Verb (2)

re-formation \ (ˌ)rē-​fȯr-​ˈmā-​shən How to pronounce re-form (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for reform

Synonyms: Verb (1)

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Verb (1)

correct, rectify, emend, remedy, redress, amend, reform, revise mean to make right what is wrong. correct implies taking action to remove errors, faults, deviations, defects. correct your spelling rectify implies a more essential changing to make something right, just, or properly controlled or directed. rectify a misguided policy emend specifically implies correction of a text or manuscript. emend a text remedy implies removing or making harmless a cause of trouble, harm, or evil. set out to remedy the evils of the world redress implies making compensation or reparation for an unfairness, injustice, or imbalance. redress past social injustices amend, reform, revise imply an improving by making corrective changes, amend usually suggesting slight changes amend a law , reform implying drastic change plans to reform the court system , and revise suggesting a careful examination of something and the making of necessary changes. revise the schedule

Examples of reform in a Sentence

Verb (1) The program is designed to reform prisoners. They want to reform campaign spending. The laws need to be reformed. The program is designed to help former gang members who are trying to reform. Noun A group of senators are calling for reform of the nation's health-care system. He has proposed a list of political reforms.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Following George Floyd’s death, Arab Americans joined Black Americans to monitor the police, and expose and reform the systemic assault on Black America. Doris Bittar, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Jan. 2022 Despite the insurrection, Republicans have good reasons to want to reform the law as well. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 12 Jan. 2022 Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who became a favorite of Arbery’s family and their supporters for her handling of the trial, said the killing highlighted the need to reform Georgia’s outdated citizen’s arrest law. Shaddi Abusaid, ajc, 6 Jan. 2022 The following month, Paris celebrated a major milestone with the passing of a bill intended to reform residential care for troubled teens. Dory Jackson,, 6 Jan. 2022 While past bills to reform SBDM councils took away one seat from teachers, SB 1 would keep the membership of the councils the same. Joe Sonka, The Courier-Journal, 4 Jan. 2022 Equally threatening is Congress’s failure to reform the Electoral Count Act of 1887. William A. Galston, WSJ, 4 Jan. 2022 The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a quasi-judicial federal body that adjucates complaints of discrimination, concurred, and ruled in 2016 that the government must reform its child and family services programs for First Nations. New York Times, 4 Jan. 2022 But without strong economic growth, the world will struggle to emerge from the pandemic, let alone reform the global economy in ways that are better for all. Dambisa Moyo, Wired, 4 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun President Biden successfully passed Covid relief legislation and the infrastructure bill, but has failed so far to move not just voting rights, but police reform -- PRES. NBC News, 16 Jan. 2022 Topics included criminal justice reform, LGBTQ equality and voting rights. Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, 14 Jan. 2022 But back in Washington, Senate Democrats appeared close to completing a more focused election-reform bill that could do far more good than the president's rhetorical call to arms. Damon Linker, The Week, 11 Jan. 2022 The grants will help support and fund programs in three target areas: Criminal justice reform, education and youth initiatives. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, 7 Jan. 2022 Limiting incapacitation will reinforce a cycle, already seen under New York state’s bail-reform law, in which offenders can be arrested, released and rearrested in the same day. Charles Fain Lehman, WSJ, 6 Jan. 2022 Instead, serious political reform — including the Democrats’ stalled voting rights bill — depends on changing the extra-constitutional yet entrenched Senate filibuster in the most malapportioned upper house in the developed world. Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2022 Those institutions need serious reform, which regular people can certainly advocate for. Nicole Hemmer, CNN, 5 Jan. 2022 Most significantly, even amid bitter fights over the administration’s infrastructure and social-reform bills, the inclusion of $41 billion of industry subsidies in the legislation has received unquestioning bipartisan backing. Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament. Reuters, CNN, 12 Oct. 2021 The initial results also showed that pro-reform candidates who emerged from the 2019 protests had gained several seats in the 329-member parliament. NBC News, 12 Oct. 2021 Under Mullins’ nearly two decades of leadership, the union has fought for better pay – with contracts resulting in pay increases of 40% – and staked a prominent position in the anti-reform movement. Michael R. Sisak, USA TODAY, 5 Oct. 2021 The pugilistic rhetoric sheds light on where the post-reform coalition education debate will lead. Kathryn Joyce, The New Republic, 30 Sep. 2021 Her anti-reform message plays well to a base of very reliable voters — older, whiter, more conservative., 3 Sep. 2021 Sandu, a former prime minister who used to lead the pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity, or PAS, promised to clean up corruption, fight poverty and strengthen relations with the EU. Corneliu Rusnac And Stephen Mcgrath, Star Tribune, 11 July 2021 The interview was conducted by Saeed Leylaz, an economist and journalist who was an adviser to Mohammad Khatami, a pro-reform cleric who served two terms as Iran’s president. Washington Post, 26 Apr. 2021 Skeptics say this basically brings back the pre-reform welfare system. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 13 Mar. 2021

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

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1819, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for reform

Verb (1)

Middle English, from Anglo-French refurmer, from Latin reformare, from re- + formare to form, from forma form

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Time Traveler for reform

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The first known use of reform was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

18 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Reform.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for reform


re·​form | \ ri-ˈfȯrm How to pronounce reform (audio) \
reformed; reforming

Kids Definition of reform

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to make better or improve by removal of faults The program reforms prisoners. The law should be reformed.
2 : to stop engaging in bad habits or behavior He promised to reform.

Other Words from reform

reformer \ ri-​ˈfȯr-​mər \ noun



Kids Definition of reform (Entry 2 of 2)

: the improvement of something by removing faults or problems political reform


transitive verb
re·​form | \ ri-ˈfȯrm How to pronounce reform (audio) \

Legal Definition of reform

1 : to put (a writing) into a corrected form that more accurately reflects the agreement of the parties allows a writing signed by mistake to be reformed— W. M. McGovern, Jr. et al. — compare ratify
2 : to induce or cause to abandon wrongful or harmful ways a reformed drug dealer

intransitive verb

: to become changed for the better

More from Merriam-Webster on reform

Nglish: Translation of reform for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of reform for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about reform


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