[hyoo-man-i-tair-ee-uh n or, often, yoo-]


having concern for or helping to improve the welfare and happiness of people.
of or relating to ethical or theological humanitarianism.
pertaining to the saving of human lives or to the alleviation of suffering: a humanitarian crisis.


a person actively engaged in promoting human welfare and social reforms, as a philanthropist.
a person who professes ethical or theological humanitarianism.

Origin of humanitarian

First recorded in 1810–20; humanit(y) + -arian
Related formsan·ti·hu·man·i·tar·i·an, adjective, nounsem·i·hu·man·i·tar·i·an, adjective, nounun·hu·man·i·tar·i·an, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for humanitarian

Contemporary Examples of humanitarian

Historical Examples of humanitarian

  • His life has been that of his century—progressive, liberal, humanitarian in its trend.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • It explodes our humanitarian theories by a series of well-directed mines.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Nor was it a progressive step only on the humanitarian side.


    John Spargo

  • But though it tended to be egalitarian it did not, of itself, tend to be humanitarian.

  • This ambiguity enters into all the phrases which are humanitarian.


    William Graham Sumner

British Dictionary definitions for humanitarian



having the interests of mankind at heart
of or relating to ethical or theological humanitarianism


a philanthropist
an adherent of humanitarianism
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

Word Origin and History for humanitarian

1794 (n.) in the theological sense "one who affirms the humanity of Christ but denies his pre-existence and divinity," from humanity + suffix from unitarian, etc.; see humanism. Meaning "philanthropist, one who advocates or practices human action to solve social problems" is from 1842, originally disparaging, with a suggestion of excess. As an adjective, by 1834.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper