Definition of commissar in English:



  • 1An official of the Communist Party, especially in the former Soviet Union or present-day China, responsible for political education and organization.

    • ‘There was a Nazi party commissar in every factory to make sure that the State's will was done.’
    • ‘In time of war the political imperatives of the commissar might become subordinated to the professional needs of the field commander, but the concession was only temporary.’
    • ‘We were led upstairs, extremely exhausted, to the smarmy commissar's luxurious office with bedroom and en-suite bathroom.’
    • ‘There are no aging commissars clinging on to party rule.’
    • ‘Krementsov successfully portrays the scientists, their managers, the commissars and the local and national politicians.’
    • ‘The team was enjoying a little capitalist indulgence under the watchful eye of their commissar.’
    • ‘The code officer served as secretary and the commissar as prosecutor.’
    • ‘This elected the party's commissars and Lenin was the president.’
    • ‘Like the pope and the Soviet commissars of old, Greenspan appears to have discovered the political usefulness of posing as infallible.’
    • ‘The armies in which the left-wing commissars remained influential had taken the old Taiping route to Changsha and Wuhan.’
    • ‘Committing itself to preserving and protecting US capital markets, the Federal Reserve has since the onset of Mr. Greenspan's tenure in reality acted in a manner more befitting a Soviet commissar of the Cold War era.’
    1. 1.1A head of a government department in the former Soviet Union before 1946.
      • ‘He gave his commissar of enlightenment, Anatoly V. Lunarcharsky, two weeks to work out the details.’
      • ‘Again, people's commissars, like tsarist ministers, were heads of departments and belonged more to the bureaucracy than to politics.’
      • ‘Under the able leadership of the old Bolshevik A.P. Smirnov, the commissar of agriculture, expertise and science were privileged over politics.’
    2. 1.2A strict or prescriptive figure of authority.
      ‘our academic commissars’
      • ‘Instead the over-taxed, ripped-off and victimised motorist is forced by self-appointed traffic commissars into an ever-diminishing number of already clogged traffic arteries.’
      • ‘Again, there is no sense of writing to please commissars or to follow a set political agenda; this music unmistakably comes from the heart.’
      • ‘They still have an irrational fear of the newspaper accusing them of being socialist commissars, but we are living in a different century.’
      • ‘The reason we are opposed to this law is that it is an extension of a very bad principle that turns police officers into commissars.’
      • ‘‘Shall we have a commissioner or a commissar?’’


Early 20th century (Russian Revolution): from Russian komissar, from French commissaire, from medieval Latin commissarius (see commissary).