From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search




A poster of the Soviet-born Israeli refusenik (sense 1) and activist Ida Nudel (1931–2021), known as the “Guardian Angel” for her efforts in helping prisoners of ZionJews who were persecuted for Zionist activities.

From refuse +‎ -nik (suffix denoting a nickname for a person who endorses, exemplifies, or is associated with something, often a particular ideology or preference), a calque of Russian отка́зник (otkáznik),[1] from отка́з (otkáz, denial, refusal, rejection, repudiation) + -ник (-nik, suffix forming masculine nouns, usually denoting adherents, etc.).





refusenik (plural refuseniks)

  1. (Soviet Union, historical, slang) One of the citizens of the former Soviet Union who was refused permission to emigrate (typically but not exclusively a Jewish citizen denied permission to emigrate to Israel).
    Synonym: otkaznik
    • 1990 December 14, “Remember the Refuseniks?”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      In 1974, a handful of brave Soviet Jews haunted foreign embassies in Moscow hoping for exit visas. Refuseniks, they were called; the Brezhnev Government wouldn't let them out.
  2. (by extension, informal) A person who refuses to do something, usually as a protest; for example, one who refuses conscription or vaccination.
    Synonym: recusant
    Hyponyms: anti-vaccinationist, conscientious objector
    • 2006, Lawrence Thompson, The Princeton University Library Chronicle, page 678:
      Richard Ellmann once referred to Samuel Beckett as “Nayman from Noland”—the author as national refusenik. Beckett famously refused to allow a national representative from either Ireland or France to pick up his Nobel Prize, sending his publisher instead []
    • 2008, Sergio Catignani, Israeli Counter-Insurgency and the Intifadas: Dilemmas of a Conventional Army, Routledge, →ISBN, page 94:
      One IDF refusenik recounted how commanders on the field tried very hard to accommodate potential conscientious objectors by offering alternative and less controversial missions, in order to avoid their refusal to serve from becoming a public, and thus, political statement: []
    • 2021 February 26, “What life is like in countries where Covid-19 vaccination is increasingly a success”, in CNN[2]:
      Authorities are offering incentives to those slow to accept the needle. In Tel Aviv, this has meant one bar offering a 'shot for a shot.' In Bnei-Barak, a bowl of stew has been offered to get the Ultra-Orthodox refuseniks over their reservations.
  3. (Can we verify(+) this sense?)(by extension, informal) A person who wants to do something but is refused permission to.

Alternative forms





  1. ^ refusenik, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, July 2023; refusenik, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading