refusenik (rih-FYOOZ-nihk) listen


  • n. Term for Soviet Jews who were not allowed to openly practice Judaism or emigrate from Soviet Union.

Example Sentences

  • "They armed hundreds of tourists with letters, books and jeans and sent them to the Soviet Union to meet with refuseniks and gather information." (source)

Languages of Origin

  • English
  • Russian
  • Yiddish


  • Partial translation of Russian отказник (otkaznik), from otkazat "to refuse," with the English word "refuse." (source) The Russian suffix -nik was maintained in Jewish circles because of its use in Yiddish and Yiddish-influenced English words, like "nudnik" and "allrightnik."

    • Who Uses This

      • Jews: Jews of diverse religious backgrounds and organizational involvements


      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • South Africa
      • Australia / New Zealand


      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).


  • Coined in the 1970s.

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