[ref-yoo-jee, ref-yoo-jee]


a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.

Origin of refugee

1675–85; < French réfugié, past participle of réfugier to take refuge. See refuge, -ee
Related formsref·u·gee·ism, nounpro·ref·u·gee, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for refugees

Contemporary Examples of refugees

Historical Examples of refugees

  • Among all the refugees, there is not one more loyal to the backbone than we.

    Old News

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The refugees were done; the pirates had unsheathed their knives for the butcher's work.

    The House Under the Sea

    Sir Max Pemberton

  • Food, through Jewel's care, had been served out to the refugees.

    Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad

  • The house has been full of refugees—Fairfaxes and Fauntleroys.

    The Long Roll

    Mary Johnston

  • This is a small pamphlet written by the son of one of the refugees.

    Old Fort Snelling

    Marcus L. Hansen

British Dictionary definitions for refugees



  1. a person who has fled from some danger or problem, esp political persecutionrefugees from Rwanda
  2. (as modifier)a refugee camp; a refugee problem
Derived Formsrefugeeism, 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 refugees



1680s, from French refugié, noun use of past participle of refugier "to take shelter, protect," from Old French refuge (see refuge). First applied to French Huguenots who migrated after the revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes. The word meant "one seeking asylum," till 1914, when it evolved to mean "one fleeing home" (first applied in this sense to civilians in Flanders heading west to escape fighting in World War I). In Australian slang from World War II, reffo.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

refugees in Culture


People who flee a nation, often to escape punishment for their political affiliations or for political dissent.

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.