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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.
Origin of 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 missionary
  • It provides a sophisticated insight, one of many in the show, into the missionary experience.
  • The missionary was delighted by everyone's response to the gift.
  • Preparation day is when a missionary buys his groceries, washes his laundry, or even visits the beach.
  • Some were driven by martial spirit, missionary zeal or imperial fervour.
  • Whether their motives are missionary or mercenary, all are ultimately sucked into the vortex of an epic-and tragic-struggle.
  • Gilder embraces new technologies with the fervor of a missionary.
  • Some companies' statements have an almost missionary zeal.
  • But also many churches work abroad through missionary projects.
  • The neocons may have the missionary zeal, but even this is likely to pall in the face of setbacks.
  • Rural doctors also have to be a cross between a missionary and a cowboy.
British Dictionary definitions for missionary


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 missionary

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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