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refugee, n.


α. 16– refugie.

β. 16 refugieè, 18 refugié, 19– réfugié Brit. /ˌreɪfʊːʒɪˈeɪ/ , U.S. /ˌreɪfuːʒiˈeɪ/ , 20– réfugiée.

γ. 16– refugee, 18 reffugee; U.S. regional 18 reffygee, 19– refegee.

(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly formed within English, by derivation; modelled on a Frenchlexical item. Partly a borrowing from French; modelled on a Frenchlexical item. Etymons: refuge v., -ee suffix1; French refugié.
Etymology: Partly (in γ. forms) < refuge v. + -ee suffix1, after French refugié (see below), and partly directly < French refugié (1576 in Middle French), use as noun of past participle of refugier  refuge v.
In sense 2   so called because many supporters of the British in New York were refugees from other parts of America.

 a. A Protestant who fled France to seek refuge elsewhere from religious persecution in the 17th and 18th centuries, esp. following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Now rare (hist. in later use).

1671   C. Wase tr. B. Priolo Hist. France vi. 260   Equal to that of the Refugies, was the joy of their Receivers at the coming of such Persons.
1685   Burnet Tracts (1689) I. 27   Zurich demanded the Estates of the refugies.
1709   R. Steele Tatler No. 13. ⁋2   That all the French Refugies in those Dominions are to be naturalized.
1902   C. J. Fox Napoleon Bonaparte & Siege Toulon 56   A pamphlet..which was nothing more than a praise of himself [sc. the Baron d'Imbert] and other refugies.
1687   J. Evelyn Diary (1955) IV. 552   The poore & religious Refugieès who escaped out of France in the cruel persecution.
1999   J. G. A. Pocock Barbarism & Relig. I. ii. 64   The Netherlands-centred print culture being built by the Remonstrants and the réfugiés.
1695   R. Ferguson Brief Acct. Incroachm. & Depredations of Dutch upon Eng. 30   The Condition of the French Refugees, is not only infinitely better here, than ever it was in their own Country, but exceedeth as well as equalleth the State of our own People of Rank and Quality with them.
1696   M. Prior Secretary 8   The long-winded cant of a dull refugee.
1707   London Gaz. No. 4334/4   There was also an humble Address from the French Refugees in the Kingdom of Ireland.
1724   D. Defoe Fortunate Mistress 2,   I retain'd nothing of France, but the Language: My Father and Mother being People of better Fashion, than ordinarily the People call'd Refugees at that Time were.

1671—1999(Hide quotations)


 b. gen. A person who has been forced to leave his or her home and seek refuge elsewhere, esp. in a foreign country, from war, religious persecution, political troubles, the effects of a natural disaster, etc.; a displaced person. Also fig. and in extended use.economic refugee, political refugee, etc.: see the first element.

1692   W. Sherlock Let. to Friend conc. French Invasion 17   He [sc. James II] wanted nothing but Power to make himself Absolute, and to make us all Papists, or Martyrs, or Refugees.
1702   True Acct. Eng. Flying Squadron 21   Those..Deserters..were not forc'd to fly their Native Country, and become Refugees in Foreign parts, for the Security of their Lives.
1725   T. Lewis Origines Hebrææ III. vi. vi. 156   Whilst the Temple of Jerusalem stood, the Eastern Refugees sent their Presents to Jerusalem, and came thither from Time to Time, to pay their Devotions.
1771   H. Husbands Fan for Fanning Introd. p. vi,   Hence it was, that refugees from the western Governments, and from Connecticut, found a safe retreat in North-Carolina.
a1842   T. Arnold Hist. Later Rom. Commonw. (1846) I. v. 203   Attending the lectures of Philo, then a refugee from Athens.
1860   W. H. Russell My Diary in India II. ii. 31   This gentleman was one of the unhappy refugees who was sheltered in the terai.
1879   J. C. Fife-Cookson Armies of Balkans i. 5   A large number of refugees from the Tunja Valley had already arrived.
1900   Amer. Law Reg. 39 77   Martin Kozta, a Hungarian refugee, after having in America declared his intention of becoming naturalized, went to Smyrna.
1914   E. A. Powell Fighting in Flanders vii. 190   The road from Antwerp to Ghent..was a solid mass of refugees.
1957   L. Durrell Justine i. 39   You are a mental refugee of course, being Irish.
1976   National Observer (U.S.) 6 Mar. 18/4   Robert MacNeil, a 44-year-old refugee from NBC and the British Broadcasting Corp., opens with a succinct summary of the program's topic.
1991   Economist 29 June 50/3   The Socialist government chose the day after Mr Chirac's first outburst to expel a Moroccan political refugee.
2008   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 4 May (Week in Review section) 14/5   We must plan to create safe corridors for the refugees fleeing Baghdad and other areas.

1692—2008(Hide quotations)


 c. In negative sense: a person who is fleeing from justice, deserved punishment, etc.; a runaway, a fugitive. In later use only with from, esp. in refugee from justice.

1754   J. Hawkesworth in J. Swift Wks. IV. 11   The inhabitants [of White Friars] claimed afterwards a power and right to protect the persons of debtors, whereby the place became filled with lawless refugees of all sorts.
1768   H. Brooke Fool of Quality III. xvi. 216,   I held myself as the refugee Jonas, whose crimes brought perdition on all in the vessel.
1777   Lady A. Miller Lett. from Italy (ed. 2) I. xi. 137   It is not true, that the churches are sanctuaries for robbers and murderers..The soldiers seize the refugees and bring them to justice.
1816   Scott Old Mortality vi, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. II. 121   With a promise on Morton's part that he would call the refugee when it was time for him to pursue his journey.
1819   E. Sanford Brit. Poets III. 24   A refugee from justice..is not apt to think himself entitled to be very fastidious in the choice of occupation.
1860   N.-Y. Times 14 Apr. 2/4   John Forsyth and his operations in silver bars and refugees from the law.
1933   Amer. Jrnl. Internat. Law 27 130   No refugee from justice has a right to be immune from extradition.
2007   Irish Independent (Nexis) 7 Oct.   Their anger is compounded when they see others who have been accused of abuse..living as refugees from justice within the walls of the Vatican.

1754—2007(Hide quotations)


d. A migratory bird. Obs. rare—1.

1764   T. Harmer Observ. Passages Script. x. xiv. 413   Among other refugees of that time Maillet elsewhere expressly mentions quails.

1764—1764(Hide quotations)


 2. U.S. During the American Revolutionary War: a member of a group of guerrilla fighters active in support of the British cause, esp. in New York, and nominally affiliated with the Tories. Cf. cow-boy n. 2. Now hist.

1780   J. André (title)    Cow-Chace, in Three Cantos published on Occasion of the Rebel General Wayne's attack of the Refugees Block-House on Hudson's River.
1781   J. Adams in J. Adams & A. Adams Familiar Lett. (1876) 403,   I expect all the rancor of the refugees will be poured out upon Cornwallis for it.
1821   J. F. Cooper Spy I. vi. 97   The more cunning refugees dispersed in small bands;..the dispersion of a troop of Cow-boys was only the extension of an evil.
1968   J. McPhee Pine Barrens ii. 36   The Refugees, who travelled—frequently masked—in packs on the sand roads, actually killed and robbed as many Tories as Whigs.
2001   J. P. King Highlands: N.J. iii. 32   The peninsula..was quite heavily fortified by regular British troops, and a large band of rugged ‘Refugees’ maintained a Sandy Hook stronghold.

1780—2001(Hide quotations)




 a. Appositive, as refugee family, refugee scholar, etc.

1695   R. Ferguson Brief Acct. Incroachm. & Depredations of Dutch upon Eng. 32   To Instigate and to make use of his Refugee Country-men, to Concur and Assist in Inslaving Us.
1721   R. Newton Univ. Educ. 181   Grooms, and footmen, and nurses, and refugee tutors.
1787   Daily Universal Reg. 30 Jan. 3/3   Mr. de Fleury, and his daughter Miss de Fleury, a French refugee family.
1791   G. Morris in J. Sparks Life G. Morris (1832) II. 143   The aristocrats are gone and going in great numbers to join the refugee princes.
1833   H. Martineau Messrs. Vanderput & Snoek iv. 63   Our refugee divines preach to more purpose.
1858   T. Carlyle Hist. Friedrich II of Prussia II. ix. xi. 546   Stanislaus has abundance of useless refugee Polish Magnates about him.
1936   Discovery Apr. 98/1   The most distinguished of the refugee scholars.
1940   Manch. Guardian Weekly 23 Feb. 147   Contracts have just been signed admitting 500 refugee families from Germany and Poland to San Domingo.
1978   P. Sutcliffe Oxf. Univ. Press vii. iv. 260   Some of the refugee scholars eventually made their way to America.
2004   Jewish Chron. 26 Mar. 10/2   My parents brought up 14 refugee children from the Kindertransport.

1695—2004(Hide quotations)


 b. attrib. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or for the use of a refugee or refugees. as refugee boat, refugee centre, refugee colony, refugee style, etc.

1781   Jrnls. Continental Congr. 1774–89 (Library of Congress) (1912) XIX. 20   To exchange, as heretofore, any exchangeable prisoners of the enemy, taken in refugee boats, for our people prisoners with the enemy.
1837   Knickerbocker 4 1837   Anomalies of expression, which have been stigmatized as the ‘stile réfugée’—the refugee style—a departure from purity, which was the result of their intercourse with strangers in foreign lands.
1855   Macaulay Hist. Eng. IV. xx. 407   Animated by the true refugee hatred of the country which had cast him out.
1888   M. Grigsby Smoked Yank xxvi. 224   General Hazen asked me to take charge of the refugee train that was assigned to his division.
1903   Times 27 Oct. 4/1   The two chief refugee centres in this country are the town of Burgas..and the Rilo mountains.
1940   Manch. Guardian Weekly 23 Feb. 147   This is the first step in an ambitious plan for a large refugee colony..that will be one of the most important refugee projects in the New World.
1979   Economist 26 May 77/2   Today's refugee problem may look like a minor inconvenience compared with the exodus that may come when the food crisis begins to bite.
2008   New Scientist 26 Jan. 7/4   The lack of meat in refugee rations in east Africa has prompted a flourishing illegal trade in wild meat.

1781—2008(Hide quotations)


  refugee bean   n. chiefly N. Amer. (now rare) a cultivated variety of snap or string bean; cf. snap n. 18.

1839   Farmer's Reg. 30 Nov. 644/1   The experiment on which the experiment was tried, was the species of bean called..‘refugee or thousand-to-one bean,’ an excellent species of snap.
1859   Trans. Illinois State Agric. Soc. 1857–8 3 503   The refugee bean (long, dark clouded), has the same characteristics.
1925   D. Monroe & L. M. Stratton Food Buying & our Markets xxi. 199   Refugee beans are specially developed for pods, rather than seeds, and are practically stringless.
1962   Bridgeport (Connecticut) Tel. 6 Dec. 30/2   We live like animals most of the time, eating canned refugee beans when we can get them.

1839—1962(Hide quotations)


  refugee camp   n. a camp for the accommodation of refugees.In S. Afr. formerly sometimes used of camps for the accommodation of Boer non-combatants (cf. concentration camp n.).

1865   Leeds Mercury 24 June 9/1,   I have..a letter from one who has been for many months in immediate contact with the refugee camps in the South.
1900   Bloemfontein Post in W. S. Sutherland S. Afr. Sketches (1901) 84   There is certainly nothing unpleasant about the name of a ‘camp’... It is only when you attach the name ‘refugee’ to it that it sounds unpleasant... No, a Refugee Camp is no joke, at least to the elders of the Orange River Colony band.
1953   News Chron. 2 June 1/4   The Mall looked like a gigantic refugee camp. Over 30,000 people were bedding down along the pavements.
2005   R. Nidel World Music: Basics i. 20   The former Spanish colony has endured more than 20 years of war with Morocco, with many of its people..living in refugee camps in Algeria.

1865—2005(Hide quotations)


  refugee capital   n. Finance capital which is transferred from one country to another in order to exploit differences in currency values or interest rates.

1926   Oakland (Calif.) Tribune 2 Dec. 36/1   This was a striking measure of deflation of the sort that has been going on since refugee capital began to pour back to France in the early autumn.
1950   N.Y. Times 12 Sept. 11/2   Since the Korean invasion began, as much as $300,000,000 to $400,000,000 in ‘refugee capital’ has flowed here from Europe.
1971   Times 20 Sept. (Hongkong Suppl.) 1/7   It [sc. Hong Kong] is a haven for refugee capital coming in from Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam where the overseas Chinese have found the going rough.
2006   N.Y. Sun (Nexis) 18 Dec. 8   London..has a rapidly growing financial sector in part because of refugee capital fleeing America.

1926—2006(Hide quotations)




  ˌrefuˈgeeism   n. the fact or condition of being a refugee.

1848   T. Hall Rowland Bradshaw xliii. 276   Mr. Gibbon, I think that this only son of his would rather be here, in a sort of secrecy and puny refugeeism, than otherwise.
1876   ‘G. Eliot’ Daniel Deronda II. iii. xxii. 72   A Pole, or a Czech, or something of that fermenting sort, in a state of political refugeeism.
1963   Jrnl. Near Eastern Stud. 22 71/2   The decimated and disillusioned Nestorians faced a choice of mass emigration and refugeeism or a simple minority status in their homelands.
2000   Southland (N.Z.) Times (Nexis) 11 Oct. 6   A man who returned to Europe a tide of miserable refugeeism, who brought a Nato bombing campaign raining down on the heads of his own people.

1848—2000(Hide quotations)


  ˌrefuˈgeeship   n.  (a) the state or fact of being a refugee;  (b) in your refugeeship, as a title of mock respect given to a refugee (obs. nonce-use).

1782   Jrnl. Georgia House of Assembly 12 Jan. in A. D. Candler Revolutionary Rec. Georgia (1908) III. 73   [They] shall Produce certificates from the commanding Officer of the regiment, he, or they, served during their Refugeeship from this Country.
1784   in Southey Life Andrew Bell (1844) I. 293   All will go on admirably with your refugeeship.
1889   H. Lewis Anc. Laws Wales ii. i. 205   It was the form which refugeeship (or Alltudism) took when the manor began to assume the place of the hundred.
1990   Sun Herald (Sydney) (Nexis) 10 June 31   We live in a world where the economic refugee is a burgeoning fact of life, even if the nature of their refugeeship is often skilfully concealed.

1782—1990(Hide quotations)