ref·​uge | \ˈre-(ˌ)fyüj also -(ˌ)fyüzh \

Definition of refuge 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : shelter or protection from danger or distress

2 : a place that provides shelter or protection

3 : something to which one has recourse in difficulty


refuged; refuging

Definition of refuge (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to give refuge to

intransitive verb

: to seek or take refuge

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Synonyms for refuge

Synonyms: Noun

asylum, harbor, harborage, haven, retreat, sanctuary, sanctum, shelter

Synonyms: Verb

harbor, shelter

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Finding Refuge

The re- in refuge means basically "back" or "backward" rather than "again;" thus, a refugee is someone who is "fleeing backward". Refuge tends to appear with certain other words: you generally "seek refuge", "take refuge", or "find refuge". Religion may be a refuge from the woes of your life; a beautiful park may be a refuge from the noise of the city; and your bedroom may be a refuge from the madness of your family.

Examples of refuge in a Sentence


hunting is strictly forbidden in the wildlife refuge


a nation with a long, honorable history of refuging political asylum seekers

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

While the kids can enjoy the carnival, the park and the petting zoo, adults can seek refuge in the beer tent. Annie Alleman,, "Plainfield Fest returns with expanded lineup," 12 July 2018 Investors have also sought refuge in the dollar amid an intensifying trade conflict between the U.S. and China. Ira Iosebashvili, WSJ, "Dollar Bounces Back and Looks Poised for More Gains," 1 July 2018 The Families Belong Together protests and marches drew politicians, parents, children, immigrants, and people appalled by the White House’s cruel treatment of those seeking refuge in the United States. Lisa Ryan, The Cut, "The Most Powerful Scenes From the Families Belong Together Protests," 30 June 2018 But the last few weeks have underscored the seeming futility of trying to rout the determination of many seeking refuge in the U.S. Cindy Carcamo,, "At the border, mothers prepare to make an agonizing choice," 25 June 2018 The number of salmon in the refuge is minimal due to the small pipe, which is about 5 feet wide. Andrew Theen,, "Springwater Corridor closure will divert cyclists onto city streets, help salmon habitat," 5 June 2018 Biologists hope the family will eventually begin to migrate with the flock in the refuge. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "Rare whooping cranes hatch at Florida wildlife refuge | Miami Herald," 9 May 2018 Some 283 schools are expected to close, a result of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican families escaping to the mainland in refuge. Silvia Foster-frau, San Antonio Express-News, "In hurricane’s aftermath, Puerto Rico moves from survival to revival," 20 Apr. 2018 The abundant berries, insects, and wetlands in the refuge attract around 400 regular bird residents. Eliza Barclay, Vox, "Congress is quietly letting Trump bulldoze a butterfly refuge to build a border wall," 28 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Last year, Chechnya was back in the headlines after reports that officials had conducted a brutal purge of gay men, sparking global outrage and prompting a coordinated international effort to grant the men refuge abroad. Washington Post, "Chechnya’s leader uses World Cup to extend his outreach to Middle East," 27 May 2018 Somehow, the sisters — ages 12, 8, 5 and 2 — made their way to refuge in Bangladesh. Hannah Beech, New York Times, "The Rohingya Suffer Real Horrors. So Why Are Some of Their Stories Untrue?," 1 Feb. 2018 On a bare stage with only two chairs and a table , Samahir Farhan portrayed before 300 people the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that refugees feel. Mahmoud Al-najjar And Gilgamesh Nabeel, USA TODAY, "Homeless, helpless refugees use theater to push for a better life in squalid Iraqi camp," 16 Sep. 2017 Groups like SIREN, an immigrant and refuge rights organization, have fielded 1,500 calls since the election. Ramona Giwargis, The Mercury News, "San Jose, Santa Clara County approve plans to protect immigrants under Trump presidency," 10 Jan. 2017 Later Monday evening, Porter and his family drove out to Powell Park to join Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and Thorns defender Kendall Johnson for a large and fun game of soccer with dozens of young immigrant and refuge children. Jamie Goldberg,, "Portland Timbers, Thorns, T2 players and staff volunteer in community as part of Stand Together Week," 6 June 2017 By March 2014, the island’s livable habitat — that is, the area above the high-tide mark — was the smallest ever recorded, and refuge sites for the melomys in rock caves, crevices and overhangs had begun to disappear, the report said. Michelle Innis, New York Times, "Today’s Headlines: Asia Edition," 14 June 2016

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1594, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for refuge


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin refugium, from refugere to escape, from re- + fugere to flee — more at fugitive

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Statistics for refuge

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for refuge

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

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More Definitions for refuge



English Language Learners Definition of refuge

: shelter or protection from danger or trouble

: a place that provides shelter or protection


ref·​uge | \ˈre-fyüj \

Kids Definition of refuge

1 : shelter or protection from danger or distress We took refuge in a nearby barn.

2 : a place that provides shelter or protection a wildlife refuge

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Comments on refuge

What made you want to look up refuge? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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