rev·​e·​nant ˈre-və-nənt How to pronounce revenant (audio) -ˌnäⁿ How to pronounce revenant (audio)
: one that returns after death or a long absence
revenant adjective

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What is a revenant?

For much of 2016, revenant was among our top lookups, doubtless because it was prominently featured in the title of a movie (The Revenant) released in 2015. Outside of contemporary cinema, revenant is encountered rarely, and it appears likely that many users who were unfamiliar with the word wished to learn more about its meaning and perhaps where it came from. Denoting “one that returns after death or a long absence,” revenant is a borrowing from French that was originally formed from the present participle of the verb revenir ("to return"). It literally means “one coming back,” either from another place or from the dead.

Examples of revenant in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web When sniffing out a revenant, lack of decomposition was, literally, a dead giveaway. Franz Lidz, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 Did this rodent revenant cross a stygian void to haunt us yet again? Jon Chesto,, 26 Dec. 2022 Then a brutal revenant from early Kahndaq seeks—with the aid of smoldering, ancient zombies—to restore Akh-Ton’s dynasty, and the Justice Society needs Teth-Adam back. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2022 Shirking death, Mara returns as an undead revenant, a Strigoi. Jamie Lang, Variety, 17 Sep. 2021 Candyman’s curse, eventually taking on the revenant’s lingering wound and characteristic aura of swarming bees, harbingers of vengeance. Armond White, National Review, 1 Sep. 2021 Whether the subject is abuse or apartheid, an individual or a nation, Rose maintains that what’s hastily buried will rise up like a revenant. Christine Smallwood, The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2021 Yet nothing seems to work, and as the requests rampage, the fatal day returns to the song like a revenant, one more time. Sean Wilentz, The New York Review of Books, 19 June 2021 Petrie repeatedly refers to Elefantin as an apparition, a revenant, an illusion. Washington Post, 16 Apr. 2021 See More

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

Word History


French, from present participle of revenir to return

First Known Use

1818, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of revenant was in 1818

Dictionary Entries Near revenant

Cite this Entry

“Revenant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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