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 refugee (audio) , ˈre-​fyu̇-​ˌjē-​ \ noun

Synonyms for refugee


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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 Barcena served as Mexico’s ambassador to Turkey during the Syrian refugee crisis — one of the reasons she was picked to manage the relationship with the Trump administration during a moment of growing tensions over migration. Washington Post, "For Mexican ambassador who survived Trump, Washington was last stop," 21 Feb. 2021 Another refugee crisis could result if the U.S. doesn’t turn things around. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Staying in Afghanistan," 19 Feb. 2021 Mass executions, destruction of infrastructure and commerce, and a refugee crisis followed. Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Magazine, "Iraq’s Cultural Museum in Mosul Is On the Road to Recovery," 19 Feb. 2021 Reports of thousands of deaths from the Syrian refugee crisis did not grip hearts and minds like the story of a single boy who drowned and washed up on the beach. Hal Hershfield, Scientific American, "How Elvis Got Americans to Accept the Polio Vaccine," 18 Jan. 2021 Based in the Middle East, Malas reported on the financial crisis in the Gulf states before moving on to cover the Arab Spring, the rise and fall of Islamic State and the refugee crisis. Los Angeles Times, "Nour Malas joins the Los Angeles Times as a deputy editor for Business," 16 Dec. 2020 Erdogan commands the second-largest military in NATO, while Turkey’s position on the southeastern flank of the alliance, bordering both Europe and Syria, has allowed Erdogan to use the Syrian refugee crisis to punish European leaders who cross him. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Erdogan's reckoning: Turkey faces wave of sanctions from US and Europe," 12 Dec. 2020 Trump finally stood up to the tyrant Bashar al-Assad of Syria who used chemical weapons and sarin gas, killed 200,000 civilians in Syria and created the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Steve Wenzel, Star Tribune, "Editorial Counterpoint: Why Donald Trump is the president we need," 12 Oct. 2020 The plan comes five years after the refugee crisis brought one million people to Europe’s shores, primarily people fleeing the war in Syria, creating a humanitarian disaster and fueling a rise in anti-immigrant politics across Europe. New York Times, "E.U. Offers Cash and More Deportations in New Plan for Migrants," 23 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for refugee

Time Traveler

The first known use of refugee was in 1685

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Statistics for refugee

Last Updated

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Refugee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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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