Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a situation in which people completely change their government or political system, usually by force
a sudden or major change, especially in ideas or methods

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The  noun revolution was borrowed from French and Latin and comes from the Latin ‘revolutio’. While it has been used in English since the 14th century to refer to a circular movement, the political use dates from the 16th.


Today is Bastille Day, officially called the ‘Fête nationale’, when the people of France celebrate the storming in 1789 of the infamous Parisian prison, an event that is taken to mark the start of the French Revolution. In the first meaning above, revolution is often preceded by an adjective, such as ‘French’ or ‘Russian’. The second meaning is often modified by a word telling you the nature of the change, such as ‘industrial’, ‘green’ or ‘data’. A palace revolution is an occasion when a leader is removed from power by someone who previously worked closely with them; the expression is applied to business and organizations as well as to governments. A counter-revolution is when a revolutionary government is opposed politically or militarily, as happened in France in the 1790s. A revolutionary is someone who supports or takes part in a revolution. To revolutionize something is to completely change the way it’s done.


We invented the revolution but we can’t handle it yet.
(Peter Weiss)

We are redefining and we are restating our socialism in terms of the scientific revolution.
(Harold Wilson)

Related words

insurgency, insurrection, rebellion, revolt, rising

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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