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[mish-uh-ner-ee] /ˈmɪʃ əˌnɛr i/
noun, plural missionaries. Also, missioner
a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.
a person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others.
a person who is sent on a mission.
pertaining to or connected with religious missions.
engaged in such a mission, or devoted to work connected with missions.
reflecting or prompted by the desire to persuade or convert others:
the missionary efforts of political fanatics.
characteristic of a missionary.
1635-45; < New Latin missiōnārius. See mission, -ary
Related forms
nonmissionary, adjective, noun, plural nonmissionaries. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for missionaries
  • If there's a missionary picture of us, too, there are a lot of people with negative views of missionaries.
  • For a time modernization suited hula little better than the missionaries had.
  • The former was a great protector and benefactor to these missionaries, nor did the latter oppose their preaching.
  • The missionaries whom he had dispersed before his departure, had spread the gospel on every side.
  • By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in a great measure successful.
  • It equipped missionaries with small airplanes and sent them winging south.
  • Sane-minded missionaries tell me of even more dramatic healings and deliverance from demons in third-world countries.
  • Some historians had derided the missionaries' reports of cannibalism as exaggerations.
  • And missionaries, while often well-intentioned, tried to stamp out native customs and beliefs.
  • According to some missionaries there are still many villages that have had no contact with the outside world in living memory.
British Dictionary definitions for missionaries


noun (pl) -aries
a member of a religious mission
of or relating to missionaries: missionary work
resulting from a desire to convert people to one's own beliefs: missionary zeal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for missionaries



1650s, from missionary (adj.). Missionary position attested by 1963, said to have been coined by Kinsey (1948), who identified its origin in work done by Polish anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in Melanesia in the 1920s; allegedly from the term used by South Pacific peoples to describe what Christian missionaries promoted to replace their local variations. By late 1960s it became the general term for this type of sex, formerly also known as the English-American position.


"sent on a mission," 1640s, from Modern Latin missionarius "pertaining to a mission," from Latin missionem (see mission).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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