ref·​u·​gee | \ ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē How to pronounce refugee (audio) , ˈre-fyu̇-ˌjē\

Definition of refugee

: one that flees especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

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Other Words from refugee

refugeeism \ ˌre-​fyu̇-​ˈjē-​ˌi-​zəm How to pronounce refugeeism (audio) , ˈre-​fyu̇-​ˌjē-​ \ noun

Synonyms for refugee


deportee, émigré (also emigré), evacuee, exile, expat [chiefly British], expatriate

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Examples of refugee in a Sentence

Thousands of refugees have fled the area. refugees began returning to their homeland after years of political unrest and war

Recent Examples on the Web

Tens of thousands of Somali refugees relocated to the U.S.—some 25,000 in the Minneapolis area—to escape the starvation, famine and civil war that turned Somalia into a lawless, failed state in the early 1990s. Gary Palmer, WSJ, "The Jew Who Died for Ilhan Omar," 18 Mar. 2019 The king, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, has spearheaded initiatives that call for peace between Muslims and Christians, sponsored academic study of such initiatives, and hosted waves of refugees fleeing violence and war. Kristin E. Holmes,, "Philly-based Templeton Foundation awards $1.45 million religion prize to Jordan's King Abdullah II," 26 June 2018 Mustafa Anabtawi received the honor for founding The Alchemist Lab, an educational center offering children in cities, remote villages, and refugee camps additional skills to help with their education, developmental needs, and confidence. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Anita Hill Delivers a Powerful Call to Action at the 2019 DVF Awards," 12 Apr. 2019 Kenya calls the refugee camp near the Somalia border a source of insecurity. Tom Odula, The Seattle Times, "UN document shows Kenya seeking to close Somali refugee camp," 29 Mar. 2019 The mothers had experienced significant trauma and some torture in refugee camps or in the Somali civil... WSJ, "I Inherited Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," 1 Mar. 2019 Over time, LandScan researchers observe hastily constructed, informal refugee camps become more organized as governments and aid organizations move in with their thousands of uniform tents. Emily Strasser, Curbed, "A secret city opens up," 8 Aug. 2018 Their story is well-chronicled, coming to Phoenix in 2016 from a refugee camp in Zimbabwe, who used their rugby background and took off in football at Central, after having never played the sport. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Central football twins Eloi, Cosmas Kwete expected to transfer," 11 July 2018 Jandaris is the northern Syrian town near where Mr. Sayyed, an activist who uses a pseudonym for his own protection, lives in a makeshift refugee camp with thousands of others displaced by Syria’s seven-year civil war. Hwaida Saad, New York Times, "Memories Lost and Futures on Hold: A Look Inside a Camp for Syria’s Displaced," 11 July 2018

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

1685, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for refugee

French réfugié, past participle of (se) réfugier to take refuge, from Middle French refugier, from Latin refugium

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More Definitions for refugee



English Language Learners Definition of refugee

: someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons


ref·​u·​gee | \ ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē How to pronounce refugee (audio) \

Kids Definition of refugee

: a person who flees for safety (as from war) usually to a foreign country


ref·​u·​gee | \ ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē How to pronounce refugee (audio) \

Legal Definition of refugee

: an individual seeking refuge or asylum especially : an individual who has left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution (as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion)

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Comments on refugee

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


one that collects or salvages junk

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