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noun, plural re·ac·tion·ar·ies.
  1. a reactionary person.
Sometimes re·ac·tion·ist [ree-ak-shuh-nist] /riˈæk ʃə nɪst/.

Origin of reactionary

1830–40; reaction + -ary; compare French réactionnaire
Related formsre·ac·tion·ism, re·ac·tion·ar·y·ism, re·ac·tion·ar·ism [ree-ak-shuh-nuh-riz-uhm] /riˈæk ʃə nəˌrɪz əm/, nounan·ti·re·ac·tion·ar·y, noun, plural an·ti·re·ac·tion·ar·ies, adjectivehalf-re·ac·tion·ar·y, adjectivenon·re·ac·tion·ar·y, adjective, noun, plural non·re·ac·tion·ar·ies.sem·i·re·ac·tion·ar·y, adjective, noun, plural sem·i·re·ac·tion·ar·ies.un·re·ac·tion·ar·y, adjective
Can be confusedproactive reactionary reactive

Synonyms for reactionary

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Antonyms for reactionary

1, 2. radical. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for reactionary

Contemporary Examples of reactionary

Historical Examples of reactionary

  • Decidedly, he ought to have sold himself to the reactionary party.

  • Perhaps conservative is not the word; reactionary would be closer.

    Blood and Iron

    John Hubert Greusel

  • And I am not alone in resenting your reactionary tendencies.


    Rafael Sabatini

  • Being a reactionary, I still felt that woman's place was not in the Army or Navy.

  • We are not speaking of a reactionary revolution but of the "activist."

    The New Society

    Walther Rathenau

British Dictionary definitions for reactionary



  1. of, relating to, or characterized by reaction, esp against radical political or social change
noun plural -aries or -ists
  1. a person opposed to radical change
Derived Formsreactionism, noun
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 reactionary

1831, on model of French réactionnaire (19c.), from réaction (see reaction). In Marxist use, "tending toward reversing existing tendencies," opposed to revolutionary and used opprobriously in reference to opponents of communism, by 1858. As a noun, "person considered reactionary," especially in politics, one who seeks to check or undo political action, by 1855.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

reactionary in Culture


An extremely conservative person or position that not only resists change but seeks to return to the “good old days” of an earlier social order.

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.