Definition of Fenian in US English:



  • 1A member of a 19th-century revolutionary nationalist organization among the Irish in the US and Ireland. The Fenians staged an unsuccessful revolt in Ireland in 1867 and were responsible for isolated revolutionary acts against the British until the early 20th century, when they were gradually eclipsed by the IRA.

    • ‘The most famous were the Fenians and the Irish Republican Brotherhood.’
    • ‘She is a Protestant gentlewoman and a Fenian, more renowned for her high society literary salon than her Republican poetry.’
    • ‘Remarkably, throughout the 1890s the editorial columns of all Irish nationalist newspapers, in addition to praising the example of the Manchester martyrs, also praised the example of the early Fenian movement.’
    • ‘However, the Fenian movement and particularly their successors the Irish Republican Brothers were of more consequence.’
    • ‘They were also consistent in their defence of the Irish Fenians in their struggle against British rule.’
    • ‘Within this bustling, energetic, heterogeneous Montreal Irish culture the Fenians were a minority group.’
    • ‘Another problem faced by the Fenians was that the Roman Catholic Church was generally not supportive of them.’
    • ‘Parnell's IRB allies proved invaluable in this area, especially as numbers of Fenians based in Ireland's rural districts and small towns had been active in land agitation for some time.’
    • ‘By then, Irish Fenians had already succeeded in exploding two bombs in the London Tube where, said The Times, ‘the new underground tunnels offered vast possibilities of destruction’.’
    • ‘Within this political struggle for the allegiance of the Montreal Irish community, a clandestine group of Fenians there continued their preparations for invasion and revolution.’
    • ‘The Fenians would respond with moral outrage if their request was denied, and make more converts with the argument that the Catholic Irish were being victimized by discrimination yet again.’
    • ‘In Ireland, Fenians committed acts of violence to bring attention to their grievances.’
    • ‘The Pope had condemned the Fenians in 1870 but after 1883 the Catholic clergy and hierarchy in Ireland were won over to the movement.’
    • ‘The Fenians were members of the so-called Fenian movement in Ireland and elsewhere, though primarily America and England.’
    • ‘In the mid-century, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Fenians began a genuinely separatist movement, whose support in Irish elections was rarely measured.’
    • ‘The American Fenians then organized an abortive attack upon Canada, a rather devious way of liberating Ireland.’
  • 2offensive (chiefly in Northern Ireland) a derogatory term for a Catholic or Irish nationalist.


From Old Irish féne, the name of an ancient Irish people, confused with fíann, fianna (see Fianna Fáil).