Definition of humanitarian in English:



  • 1Concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.

    ‘groups sending humanitarian aid’
    • ‘He suggested duties would involve reconstruction, health care and humanitarian aid.’
    • ‘No credence can be given to any genuine humanitarian concern from Paris or London.’
    • ‘There is a recognition that any military action must be accompanied by huge humanitarian aid.’
    • ‘The clear intention was to kill civilians gathered for food aid and to disrupt humanitarian relief.’
    • ‘It won't be humanitarian concerns that tip us into this new era, but they laid the foundation.’
    • ‘Most of the signatories were happy to sign because of their profound humanitarian concerns.’
    • ‘There is a massive humanitarian need and aid agencies are crying out for safe access to the people who need us.’
    • ‘It joined a convey of 23 ambulances and nine lorries packed with humanitarian aid.’
    • ‘They told us that they want us to stop humanitarian aid by the first of the year.’
    • ‘Apart from giving the children a holiday each year, we also send out many tonnes of humanitarian aid.’
    • ‘Nor is it motivated by concern to ensure that humanitarian efforts proceed unhindered.’
    • ‘Clearly our forces now need to adapt to the change in the civilian attitude and humanitarian crisis emerging.’
    • ‘The Scouts are learning about international humanitarian aid by doing it themselves.’
    • ‘The aid agencies now despair since even basic humanitarian work is ever more impossible.’
    • ‘These are billions that should have been used for humanitarian aid.’
    • ‘In a humanitarian response, aid agencies must consider their long term goals.’
    • ‘What is true is that it is very rare for donors to provide aid on humanitarian grounds.’
    • ‘An excellent example of the difference between military and humanitarian concern comes from Namibia.’
    • ‘It was simply that domestic policy considerations took priority over humanitarian concerns.’
    • ‘They had no intention of joining the fighting, they insist, but only of giving humanitarian aid.’
    compassionate, humane
    charitable, philanthropic, public-spirited, socially concerned, doing good works, welfare
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Denoting an event or situation which causes or involves widespread human suffering, especially one which requires the large-scale provision of aid.
      ‘human rights groups have warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis’
      • ‘You know, both sides have been calling this a humanitarian disaster.’
      • ‘They did not mention the humanitarian disaster they caused.’
      • ‘Its attack on that people is a political and humanitarian catastrophe.’
      • ‘So we have got two humanitarian disasters.’
      • ‘Does the administration view it as a humanitarian crisis?’
      • ‘The Janjaweed have waged a brutal campaign to drive out African farmers and U.S. officials are calling the dire situation in Sudan the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.’
      • ‘The Egyptian foreign ministry says it will be open "as long as this humanitarian as long as this is a humanitarian crisis."’
      • ‘Pressure has been mounting for greater Western involvement to end violence and a humanitarian crisis in Darfur.’
      • ‘The World Food Programme, the leading agency in dealing with famine and humanitarian disasters, is facing a crisis of its own.’
      • ‘The NATO intervention exacerbated the humanitarian crisis.’
      • ‘In Europe, this was still often presented as a regrettable exception, triggered by a humanitarian emergency, to the normal respect for international law characteristic of democracies.’
      • ‘What can you tell us about plans of dealing with that terrible humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan?’
      • ‘Well, the humanitarian crisis in Congo is so urgent the United Nations is boosting its peacekeeping force there by 3,000 more troops.’
      • ‘A former governor of Sudan's stricken Darfur region yesterday appealed to the Irish Government to intervene to help solve what has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis.’
      • ‘Darfur has been a humanitarian crisis since 2003, when rebels frustrated by a long history of marginalization attacked government forces.’
      • ‘For the first time NATO nations agreed, without a formal UN resolution, to use military force to solve a growing humanitarian crisis within a sovereign state's boundaries.’
      • ‘Figuring out how to apply the laws governing property and commercial activity are among the most complicated tasks in a humanitarian crisis.’
      • ‘Even before the war there was a humanitarian catastrophe.’
      • ‘The Chadian President on Wednesday urged the international community to act quickly in Darfur to avoid a "humanitarian tragedy" in the western part of Sudan.’
      • ‘Some U. N. officials are now warning of a humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories and saying it isn't far off.’


  • A person who seeks to promote human welfare.

    • ‘It was also described as cruel by Western humanitarians when the country tried to restrict its population growth with the introduction of a one-child policy.’
    • ‘Permanent liaison and participation with such organizations will facilitate the definition of common goals and therefore defuse further conflict between utilitarians and humanitarians.’
    • ‘So what do the real humanitarians think of this?’
    • ‘It seems to be that the humanitarian thing to do - and I know that most anti-war people consider themselves humanitarians.’
    • ‘In the weeks prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, an English archaeologist is responsible for a series of daring rescues of important scientists and humanitarians from Nazi-occupied territories.’
    • ‘Before the peacekeepers arrive, it's often the humanitarians in harm's way with no back-up.’
    • ‘Soldiers can only draw a line in the sand; it is the humanitarians who must create development and hope.’
    • ‘Join the real humanitarians as we strive to satisfy the needs and wants of every individual in the world.’
    • ‘Many liberal and socialist humanitarians took the same view.’
    • ‘My thanks go to those aforementioned humanitarians in the town, the skilled hospital staff and, especially, to all my thoughtful friends and neighbours for their gifts and many good wishes.’
    • ‘The new generation of terrorists does not spare unarmed humanitarians.’
    • ‘It is not hard to find countless examples of humanitarians giving up six-figure incomes to contribute to aid work.’
    • ‘There's nothing in it for the humanitarians amongst us, but that's not the idea.’
    • ‘The same belief led some influential humanitarians to support removal policy in the United States.’
    • ‘But right now it is happening, and you can't help wondering where all the great humanitarians are.’
    • ‘‘We want to end all humanitarian programs all over the world because we want, as humanitarians, to see development and ourselves out of work,’ he said.’
    • ‘He is one of the most dedicated humanitarians I have ever known.’
    • ‘Compiled with the help of readers' nominations, it is a list of politicians, businessmen, humanitarians, artisans and more.’
    • ‘The case is tidily made that he was one of the 20th Century's great humanitarians.’
    • ‘I look up to a lot of great writers, humanitarians, political figures/activists, scientists, religious figures.’
    philanthropist, altruist, benefactor, social reformer, do-gooder, good samaritan
    View synonyms


The primary sense of humanitarian is 'concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare’. Since the 1930s a new sense, exemplified by phrases such as the worst humanitarian disaster this country has seen, has been gaining currency, and is now broadly established, especially in journalism, although it is not considered good style by all. In the Oxford English Corpus the second most common collocation of humanitarian is crisis