1915–20; < Russianbolʾshevík, equivalent to bólʾsh(iĭ) larger, greater (comparative of bolʾshóĭ large; compare bolʾshinstvó majority) + -evik, variant of -ovik noun suffix; cf. Menshevik
Related formsan·ti-Bol·she·vik, noun, adjectivenon-Bol·she·vik, nounpro-Bol·she·vik, adjective, noun
When Bolshevik is used to refer to an extreme radical, it implies that such a person has a strongly felt subversive or combative ideology counter to the status quo. The 20-century poets T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were called literary Bolsheviks by a writer in a London newspaper.
1917, from Russian bol'shiy "greater," comparative of adjective bol'shoy "big, great" (cf. Bolshoi Ballet), from Old Church Slavonic boljiji "larger," from PIE root *bel- "strong" (cf. Sanskrit balam "strength, force," Greek beltion "better," Phrygian balaios "big, fast," Old Irish odbal "strong," Welsh balch "proud;" Middle Dutch, Low German, Frisian pal "strong, firm").
It was the faction of the Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party after a split in 1903 that was either larger or more extreme (or both) than the Mensheviks (from Russian men'shij "less"); after they seized power in 1917, applied generally to Russian communists. Bolshevism is recorded from 1917.