re·​fuse·​nik ri-ˈfyüz-(ˌ)nik How to pronounce refusenik (audio)
variants or less commonly refusnik
: a Soviet citizen and especially a Jew refused permission to emigrate
: a person who refuses or declines something

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web After getting a secret greenlight in March 1990, Mr. Reichmann was aboard his private plane to Lithuania to pick up refusenik Raiz and his son. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2023 When the Soviet Union lifted its ban on the Jewish refusenik emigration in 1971, my family saw their opportunity to start over in America. Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2022 Vaccine mandates by large companies and government agencies, many of them imposed at President Biden’s behest, seem to be working—without vaccine-refusenik workers quitting en masse, as threatened. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2021 Can the host forbid entry or try to make a refusenik toe the line? Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture, 1 Dec. 2021 If the refusal to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge was sure to earn the Republican refusenik a potent primary challenge from the right, a denying Trump’s election lies as a gospel truth will likely lead to the same punishment. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 7 July 2021 Natan Sharansky has been a computer scientist, a chess player, a refusenik, a dissident, a political prisoner, a party leader, a government minister, a nonprofit executive, and a bestselling author. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 28 Nov. 2020 Nor does everyone feel oppressed by celebrity; all that star-maker machinery has to get stoked with something, and for every Dylanesque refusenik in the world there are ten thousand volunteers for fame. Jonathan Dee, The New Yorker, 29 June 2020 From pedestrians who won't make space on the sidewalk to #nomask refuseniks, encounters with pandemic jerks are a nearly universal Covid-19 phenomenon. Jen Rose Smith, CNN, 15 May 2020 See More

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

Word History


partial translation of Russian otkaznik, from otkaz refusal

First Known Use

1973, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of refusenik was in 1973

Dictionary Entries Near refusenik

Cite this Entry

“Refusenik.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

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