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From French réfugié, past participle of réfugier (to take refuge), describing early French Protestants seeking refuge after the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685. Analyzable as refuge +‎ -ee. Displaced native Old English flīema.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹɛfjʊd͡ʒiː/, /ɹɛfjʊˈd͡ʒiː/
  • Rhymes: -iː
  • (file)


refugee (plural refugees)

  1. A person seeking refuge in a foreign country out of fear of political persecution or the prospect of such persecution in their home country, i.e., a person seeking political asylum.
  2. A person seeking refuge due to a natural disaster, war, etc.
    • 2022 June 13, “Video shows Zelensky call on world to help Taiwan before China invades”, in Taiwan News[2], archived from the original on 13 June 2022:
      Alluding to the regional consequences of a war in the Taiwan Strait, Zelensky pointed out that there could be millions of refugees, similar to the result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  3. A person formally granted political or economic asylum by a country other than their home country.
  4. (by extension) A person who flees one place or institution for another.
    • 2010, Brian Harrison, Finding a Role?: The United Kingdom 1970-1990, page 2181:
      Why did the SDP dream eventually fade? Partly because it succeeded far better inside parliament than out. It might attract some inner-city Catholic traditionalist Labour refugees from Labour's left, but many of those were already gentrifying.


Derived terms[edit]


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refugee (third-person singular simple present refugees, present participle refugeeing, simple past and past participle refugeed)

  1. (transitive, US, historical) To convey (slaves) away from the advance of the federal forces.

See also[edit]