From the second edition (1989):
refugee, n.
(rɛfjuːˈdʒiː) Also 7–8 refugie. [ad. F. refugié, pa. pple. of refugier: see refuge v. The Anglicized form in -ee appears almost as early as that in -ie, and soon became the standard one.]


1. a. One who, owing to religious persecution or political troubles, seeks refuge in a foreign country; orig. applied to the French Huguenots who came to England after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

α 1685 Burnet Tracts (1689) I. 27 Zurich demanded the Estates of the refugies. 1691 Lond. Gaz. No. 2679/1 The Troops in the Town behaved themselves very well, and particularly the French Refugies. 1709 Steele Tatler No. 13 ⁋2 That all the French Refugies in those Dominions are to be naturalized.
β 1687 Evelyn Diary 12 June, The poore and religious refugees who escaped out of France in the cruel persecution. 1696 Prior Secretary 8 The long-winded cant of a dull refugee. 1707 Lond. Gaz. No. 4334/4 There was also an humble Address from the French Refugees in the Kingdom of Ireland. 1783 New York during Amer. Rev. (1861) 141 A very considerable embarkation of Refugees took place last week bound for Nova Scotia and Canada. 1797 Encycl. Brit. (ed. 3) XVI. 51/1 Since the revolt of the British colonies in America, we have frequently heard of American refugees. 1814 Mackintosh Rev. Lives Milton's Nephews Wks. 1846 II. 503 Some of those ingenious and excellent Protestant refugees, whose writings contributed to excite all Europe against Louis XIV. a1842 Arnold Later Hist. Rome (1846) I. v. 203 Attending the lectures of Philo, then a refugee from Athens. 1879 J. C. Fife-Cookson Armies of Balkans i. 5 A large number of refugees from the Tunja Valley had already arrived.


b. A runaway; a fugitive from justice, etc. rare.

1760–72 H. Brooke Fool of Qual. (1809) III. 108, I held myself as the refugee Jonas, whose crimes brought perdition on all in the vessel. 1816 Scott Old Mort. vi, With a promise on Morton's part that he would call the refugee when it was time for him to pursue his journey.


c. transf. of migratory birds. Obs. rare—1.

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


d. Someone driven from his home by war or the fear of attack or persecution; a displaced person. Also fig.

1914 E. A. Powell Fighting in Flanders vii. 190 The road from Antwerp to Ghent‥was a solid mass of refugees. 1926 T. E. Lawrence Seven Pillars (1935) vi. lxxix. 436 Then there were the guests and refugees whom we might expect so soon as the news of our establishment was rumoured in Damascus. 1944, etc. [see displaced ppl. a. b]. 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.


2. U.S. A name given, esp. in New York State, to parties of marauders in the American revolutionary war who claimed British protection; = cowboy 2. Obs. exc. Hist.

1780 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 Fam. Lett. (1876) 403, I expect all the rancor of the refugees will be poured out upon Cornwallis for it. 1821 F. Cooper Spy vii, The more cunning refugees dispersed in small bands;‥the dispersion of a troop of Cow-boys was only the extension of an evil.


3. a. Used appositively, as refugee family, refugee scholar, refugee tutor, etc.; refugee capital = hot money s.v. hot a. 12.

1721 R. Newton Univ. Educ. 181 Grooms, and footmen, and nurses, and refugee tutors. 1791 Gouv. Morris in Sparks Life & Writ. (1832) II. 143 The aristocrats are gone and going in great numbers to join the refugee princes. 1833 H. Martineau Vanderput & S. iv. 63 Our refugee divines preach to more purpose. 1858 Carlyle Fredk. Gt. ix. xi. (1872) III. 188 Stanislaus has abundance of useless refugee Polish Magnates about him. 1936 Discovery Apr. 98/1 The most distinguished of the refugee scholars. 1936 Refugee capital [see hot money s.v. hot a. 12]. 1940 Manch. Guardian Weekly 23 Feb. 147 Contracts have just been signed admitting 500 refugee families from Germany and Poland to San Domingo. 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. 1978 P. Sutcliffe Oxf. Univ. Press vii. iv. 260 Some of the refugee scholars eventually made their way to America.


b. attrib. Characteristic of a refugee. Also, of or pertaining to a refugee or refugees, as refugee camp, refugee centre, refugee colony, refugee project, refugee style, refugee train.

1855 Macaulay Hist. Eng. xx. IV. 407 Animated by the true refugee hatred of the country which had cast him out. 1864 K. Cumming Jrnl. Hospital Life (1866) ix. 146/2 His two daughters were with him, and were keeping house in two rooms, refugee style. 1888 M. Grigsby Smoked Yank xxvi. 224 General Hazen asked me to take charge of the refugee train that was assigned to his division. 1902 J. Buchan in J. Adam Smith J. Buchan & his World (1979) 38/2 [Milner] has turned over to me‥the Boer refugee camps. 1906 Westm. Gaz. 23 Apr. 7/1 In the refugee camps yesterday rude altars were erected. 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. 1941 Koestler Scum of Earth 177 Refugee-centre besieged by crowd but said there is some British ambulance in Périgueux. 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. 1975 O. Sela Bengali Inheritance ii. 18 Kids, spawned in refugee camps, brought up in squalor.


Hence refuˈgeeism, the condition of a refugee; refuˈgeeship, the personality of a refugee. (nonce-wds.)

1784 in Southey Life Andrew Bell (1844) I. 293 All will go on admirably with your refugeeship. 1876 Geo. Eliot Dan. Der. iii. xxii, A Pole, or a Czech, or something of that fermenting sort, in a state of political refugeeism.