[ noun proh-test; verb pruh-test, proh-test ]
/ noun ˈproʊ tɛst; verb prəˈtɛst, ˈproʊ tɛst /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: protest / protested / protesting on Thesaurus.com

verb (used without object)
to give manifest expression to objection or disapproval; remonstrate.
to make solemn or earnest declaration.
verb (used with object)
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…

Origin of protest

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English <Middle French (French protêt), derivative of protester to protest <Latin prōtestārī to declare publicly, equivalent to prō-pro-1 + testārī to testify, derivative of testis a witness; (v.) late Middle English protesten<Middle French protester

synonym study for protest

6. See declare.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does protest mean?

Protest most commonly means a public show of disapproval of or opposition to something.

Protests are often held against things like a nation’s involvement in a war or specific government policies or forms of injustice.

A close synonym is demonstration. Such protests are often held in public spaces by people who want to display their disapproval openly in order to bring awareness to their cause and put pressure on authorities to make changes.

A person who participates in a protest can be called a protester or a protestor. (The -er spelling is much more common, but the -or spelling has increased in usage.)

Protest is often used as a verb meaning to participate in a protest. It can also be used as a verb in a more general way meaning to show disapproval or disagreement, as in My kids always protest when I try to serve them vegetables, but they end up eating them. 

Sometimes, protest might refer to an official complaint or objection, as in They lodged an official protest. This sense can also be used as a verb, as in The team protested their loss with the league, claiming unfair treatment by referees. 

To resign in protest means to quit in a way that’s meant to show disagreement or disapproval of something that’s happened. To do something under protest means to do it unwillingly or with strong objections.

Example: The colonists protested the increased taxes by refusing to pay them.

Where does protest come from?

The first records of protest come from the 1300s. It derives from the Latin prōtestārī, meaning “to declare publicly,” from the root testārī, meaning “to testify.” The pro- in protest doesn’t mean “in favor of” or “supporting” as it does in some other terms—instead it’s used to indicate a sense of outwardness.

To protest is to speak out against something. It’s almost always used in a way that indicates a stance against something considered negative—something that the protesters want to see change. Perhaps the most recognizable form of protest is when a large group of people assembles in the streets to march, chant, and carry signs with messages about their cause. But protesting can take many forms. Sometimes, a protest can be a refusal to do something. Rosa Parks protested racist treatment by refusing to move when a white man tried to take her seat on the bus. Her protest is often considered one of the events that launched the civil rights movement in the U.S., which included protests against systemic racism in the form of marches, rallies, sit-ins, and boycotts.

Some protests are massive demonstrations, like those in which citizens rallied against their authoritarian governments during the Arab Spring in 2010 and 2011. Others are much smaller and much more narrow in scope. A handful of people might protest outside of their local government building. Protests don’t always have to take place in public, but that’s often the most effective way for people to have their voices heard.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to protest?

  • protester (noun)
  • protestor (noun)
  • protestingly (adverb)
  • protestable (adjective)
  • protestive (adjective)

What are some synonyms for protest?

What are some words that share a root or word element with protest

What are some words that often get used in discussing protest?

How is protest used in real life?

There are many forms of protest and people protest against many different things. The word is most commonly used to refer to a public display of disapproval.




Try using protest!

Is protest used correctly in the following sentence?

Citizens held a protest outside the mayor’s office to congratulate him on a job well done.

How to use protest in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for protest


noun (ˈprəʊtɛst)
verb (prəˈtɛst)

Derived forms of protest

protestant, adjective, nounprotester or protestor, nounprotestingly, adverb

Word Origin for protest

C14: from Latin prōtestārī to make a formal declaration, from prō- before + testārī to assert
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