[jezh-oo-it, jez-oo-, jez-yoo-]


a member of a Roman Catholic religious order (Society of Jesus) founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1534.
(often lowercase) a crafty, intriguing, or equivocating person: so called in allusion to the methods ascribed to the order by its opponents.


of or relating to Jesuits or Jesuitism.

Origin of Jesuit

1550–60; < New Latin Jēsuita, equivalent to Latin Jēsu(s) + -ita -ite1
Related formsan·ti-Jes·u·it, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for jesuits



a member of a Roman Catholic religious order (the Society of Jesus) founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola in 1534 with the aims of defending the papacy and Catholicism against the Reformation and to undertake missionary work among the heathen
(sometimes not capital) informal, offensive a person given to subtle and equivocating arguments; casuist
Derived FormsJesuitic or Jesuitical, adjectiveJesuitically, adverb

Word Origin for Jesuit

C16: from New Latin Jēsuita, from Late Latin Jēsus + -ita -ite 1
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 jesuits


1540s, from Modern Latin Jesuita, member of the Society of Jesus, founded 1533 by Ignatius Loyola to combat Protestantism. Their enemies (in both Catholic and Protestant lands) accused them of belief that ends justify means, hence the sense "a dissembling person" (1630s), and jesuitical "deceitful" (1610s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for jesuits


A religious order of men in the Roman Catholic Church; its official name is the Society of Jesus. Founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century, the society became the spearhead of the Counter Reformation.


The Jesuit order has a long tradition of vigorous missionary work and of intellectual and scholarly achievement. The Jesuits have also been known historically for their influence, often behind the scenes, in European politics and for their skill and resourcefulness in debate — characteristics that have sometimes led people to mistrust them. In recent years, they have become better known as free-ranging thinkers on religious and political questions.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.