Definition of missionary in English:



  • A person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.

    • ‘Hardly a week goes by without reports of aid workers or missionaries being killed.’
    • ‘He was born in India to parents who were missionaries for the Plymouth Brethren.’
    • ‘Yet how many Christians today give even a tenth to support pastors, evangelists and missionaries?’
    • ‘Christianity, first introduced by missionaries, has largely replaced traditional Inuit religious practices.’
    • ‘During the seventeenth century, French Jesuit missionaries converted many of the Iroquois to Catholicism.’
    • ‘In 1924 the first Catholic missionaries arrived on the plateau.’
    • ‘Entrepreneurs, church missionaries, and the British colonial government officers soon arrived thereafter.’
    • ‘A short time later, European Catholic missionaries settled in Lebanon and began schools there.’
    • ‘Nutrition in the area is poor but missionaries of the Sacred Heart have set up a school feeding scheme.’
    • ‘The Roman Catholic church of Spain sent Jesuit missionaries to subdue and civilize the Paraguayan natives.’
    • ‘He spent the next seven years as a missionary to the Indians at Stockbridge, Massachusetts.’
    • ‘The bulk of the missionaries who came to Zambia long ago came from Europe.’
    • ‘American Protestant missionaries arrived in Korea in the nineteenth century.’
    • ‘The numbers of Mormon missionaries and converts will double in the next fifteen years.’
    • ‘A number of the foremost pioneer missionaries to these islands also served in Australia.’
    • ‘My parents are missionaries and have travelled the world since before I was born.’
    • ‘The missionaries established schools as a principal method of teaching and preaching.’
    • ‘Christianity was introduced by missionaries in the nineteenth century.’
    • ‘Christian missionaries came as well, drawn by the large numbers of prospective converts.’
    • ‘Spanish colonizers and Franciscan missionaries had established themselves in New Mexico by 1598.’
    evangelist, apostle, proselytizer, preacher, televangelist, minister, priest
    campaigner, crusader, champion, converter, promoter, advocate, proponent
    View synonyms


  • Relating to or characteristic of a missionary or a religious mission.

    ‘missionary work’
    ‘they have lost the missionary zeal they once had’
    • ‘So we can assume that he is not burning with missionary zeal to convert Iran to Christianity.’
    • ‘Morals and good habits were also an important subject for charts and an integral part of missionary education.’
    • ‘As a result of missionary influence, it has become customary for a woman to cover her hair with a scarf or hat.’
    • ‘Other conservative Republicans were dismayed by the president's missionary zeal.’
    • ‘The choice was left up to him and another Jesuit who had also been tapped for missionary work.’
    • ‘Why are Christians not more active in missionary endeavours?’
    • ‘Christian missionary activity has taken place since 1797 and has had a great impact on the Tongan culture.’
    • ‘What must it have been like in the heady days of Paul's missionary work there?’
    • ‘Theorizing about biblical translation was often undertaken and emerged within the framework of missionary practice.’
    • ‘South Sea Islanders were very important in early Protestant missionary activity and most were accompanied by their wives.’
    • ‘Yes, the church has certainly had a vision like that and most missionary traditions have had those hopes.’
    • ‘There is a kind of missionary fervor among those participating in the effort.’
    • ‘The European Christian Mission is celebrating one hundred years of missionary activity.’
    • ‘Perhaps that has been one of the greatest failings of missionary endeavours in Africa over the past 50 years!’
    • ‘The general area is well worth visiting, having various historical sites that recall early missionary effort.’
    • ‘Liberalism is a missionary faith, and proselytising zeal is not normally conducive to sceptical inquiry.’
    • ‘And to this day fluoridation is still pursued with missionary fervour.’
    • ‘There is a direct connection between the presence of missionary zeal in members and their regular presence in worship.’
    • ‘For some there was religious missionary zeal in helping those who were less fortunate.’
    • ‘The rich white missionary agencies are making use of the country's poverty and social ills to further their ends.’
    evangelistic, evangelizing, missionary, crusading, propagandist, propagandizing, converting, proselytizing, televangelical
    View synonyms


Mid 17th century: from modern Latin missionarius, from Latin missio (see mission).