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From French réactionnaire[1]. Used in the time of the French revolution to refer to a person opposing the revolution; as in a person favoring a reaction to the revolution. First known usage in English in a translation of Lazare Carnot's letter on the Conspiracy of the 18th Fructidor published in London, 1799.



reactionary (comparative more reactionary, superlative most reactionary)

  1. Politically favoring a return to a supposed golden age of the past.
    • 2011 September 29, Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, New York: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, OL 25101368M, page 25:
      There's a fairly simple reason for the embrace of radicalism on the right, and it has to do with the reactionary imperative that lies at the core of conservative doctrine. [] If he is to preserve what he values, the conservative must declare war against the culture as it is.
    • 2019 August 7, Marissa Brostoff and Noah Kulwin, “The Right Kind of Continuity”, in Jewish Currents[1]:
      [Jeffrey] Epstein was interested in transhumanism, a theory of human perfection via technological manipulation that—like its predecessor, eugenics—is shot through with racist and reactionary ideas.
  2. (chemistry) Of, pertaining to, participating in or inducing a chemical reaction.
    • 2013, Brandon Smith, Are Individuals The Property Of The Collective?
      Psychiatry extends the theory into biology in the belief that all human behavior is nothing more than a series of reactionary chemical processes in the brain that determine pre-coded genetic responses built up from the conditioning of one’s environment.




reactionary (plural reactionaries)

  1. One who is opposed to change.
  2. One who is very conservative.


Further reading[edit]

  • "reactionary" in Raymond Williams, Keywords (revised), 1983, Fontana Press, page 256.
  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg reactionary on Wikipedia.Wikipedia


  1. ^ reactionary” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2020.