Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by reaction, especially opposition to progress or liberalism; extremely conservative.
  • n. An opponent of progress or liberalism; an extreme conservative.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Opposed to change; urging a return to a previous state.
  • adj. Very conservative.
  • n. One who is opposed to change.
  • n. One who is very conservative.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Being, causing, or favoring reaction.
  • n. One who favors reaction, or seeks to undo political progress or revolution.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Of or pertaining to reaction in general; consisting of or characterized by reflex or reciprocal action; reactive.
  • Specifically Of or pertaining to political reaction; favoring reaction: as, reactionary principles or movements.
  • n. A promoter of reaction; specifically, one who attempts to check, undo, or reverse political action.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. extremely conservative
  • n. an extreme conservative; an opponent of progress or liberalism

Etymologies

From French réactionnaire. Used in the time of the French revolution to refer to a person opposing the revolution; as in a person favoring a reaction to the revolution. First known usage in English in a translation of Lazare Carnot's letter on the Conspiracy of the 18th Fructidor published in London, 1799. (Wiktionary)

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