Meaning of radical


If something is considered extremist or very different from anything that has come before it, call it radical.

The noun, radical, comes from the Latin radix “root,” and in fact, radical and root are synonymous as technical terms in fields such as math and linguistics. In more everyday language, a radical is someone who has very extreme views, so you could say that their views are different from the root up. Similarly, a radical flaw or change is a fundamental one whereas a radical design or idea is very new and innovative.

Definitions of radical
  1. adjective

    (used of opinions and actions) far beyond the norm

    radical opinions on education”

    extremist, ultra


    beyond reasonable limits
  2. adjective

    markedly new or introducing radical change

    radical political views”



    not of long duration; having just (or relatively recently) come into being or been made or acquired or discovered
  3. noun

    a person who has radical ideas or opinions

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    Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin

    Russian anarchist; ally and later opponent of Karl Marx (1814-1876)
    Osama bin Laden

    Arab terrorist who established al-Qaeda (born in 1957)
    Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armont

    French revolutionary heroine (a Girondist) who assassinated Marat (1768-1793)
    Georges Jacques Danton

    French revolutionary leader who stormed the Paris bastille and who supported the execution of Louis XVI but was guillotined by Robespierre for his opposition to the Reign of Terror (1759-1794)
    Emma Goldman

    United States anarchist (born in Russia) who opposed conscription; was deported to the Soviet Union in 1919 (1869-1940)
    Ernesto Guevara

    an Argentine revolutionary leader who was Fidel Castro’s chief lieutenant in the Cuban revolution; active in other Latin American countries; was captured and executed by the Bolivian army (1928-1967)
    Jaffar Umar Thalib

    Indonesian terrorist and Islamic militant who commands the Laskar Jihad; uses violence to achieve political ends (1965-2000)
    Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin

    Russian anarchist (1842-1921)
    Mao Tsetung

    Chinese communist leader (1893-1976)
    Jean Paul Marat

    French revolutionary leader (born in Switzerland) who was a leader in overthrowing the Girondists and was stabbed to death in his bath by Charlotte Corday (1743-1793)
    Jose Julian Marti

    Cuban poet and revolutionary who fought for Cuban independence from Spain (1853-1895)
    Karl Marx

    founder of modern communism; wrote the Communist Manifesto with Engels in 1848; wrote Das Kapital in 1867 (1818-1883)
    Honore-Gabriel Victor Riqueti

    French revolutionary who was prominent in the early days of the French Revolution (1749-1791)
    Ilich Ramirez Sanchez

    Venezuelan master terrorist raised by a Marxist-Leninist father; trained and worked with many terrorist groups (born in 1949)
    Maxmillien Marie Isidore de Robespierre

    French revolutionary; leader of the Jacobins and architect of the Reign of Terror; was himself executed in a coup d’etat (1758-1794)
    Nicola Sacco

    United States anarchist (born in Italy) who with Bartolomeo Vanzetti was convicted of murder and in spite of world-wide protest was executed (1891-1927)
    Lev Davidovich Bronstein

    Russian revolutionary and Communist theorist who helped Lenin and built up the army; he was ousted from the Communist Party by Stalin and eventually assassinated in Mexico (1879-1940)
    Benjamin Ricketson Tucker

    United States anarchist influential before World War I (1854-1939)
    Nat Turner

    United States slave and insurrectionist who in 1831 led a rebellion of slaves in Virginia; he was captured and executed (1800-1831)
    Bartolomeo Vanzetti

    United States anarchist (born in Italy) who with Nicola Sacco was convicted of murder and in spite of world-wide protest was executed (1888-1927)
    Denmark Vesey

    United States freed slave and insurrectionist in South Carolina who was involved in planning an uprising of slaves and was hanged (1767-1822)
    Francisco Villa

    Mexican revolutionary leader (1877-1923)
    Sir William Wallace

    Scottish insurgent who led the resistance to Edward I; in 1297 he gained control of Scotland briefly until Edward invaded Scotland again and defeated Wallace and subsequently executed him (1270-1305)
    Emiliano Zapata

    Mexican revolutionary who led a revolt for agrarian reforms (1879-1919)
    Chou En-lai

    Chinese revolutionary and communist leader (1898-1976)

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    anarchist, nihilist, syndicalist

    an advocate of anarchism
    Bolshevik, Marxist, bolshie, bolshy, red

    emotionally charged terms used to refer to extreme radicals or revolutionaries

    a person who holds extreme views
    leveler, leveller

    a radical who advocates the abolition of social distinctions
    revolutionary, revolutionist, subversive, subverter

    a radical supporter of political or social revolution

    a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities
    Trot, Trotskyist, Trotskyite

    radicals who support Trotsky’s theory that socialism must be established throughout the world by continuing revolution

    a member of the Industrial Workers of the World
    young Turk

    a young radical who agitates for reform
    counter-revolutionist, counterrevolutionary, counterrevolutionist

    a revolutionary whose aim is to reverse the changes introduced by an earlier revolution
    dynamiter, dynamitist

    a person who uses dynamite in a revolutionary cause
    Girondin, Girondist

    a member of the moderate republican party that was in power during the French Revolution; the Girondists were overthrown by their more radical rivals the Jacobins
    cyber-terrorist, cyberpunk, hacker

    a programmer who breaks into computer systems in order to steal or change or destroy information as a form of cyber-terrorism
    freedom fighter, insurgent, insurrectionist, rebel

    a person who takes part in an armed rebellion against the constituted authority (especially in the hope of improving conditions)

    a member of the radical movement that instituted the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution

    a spy or saboteur or terrorist planted in an enemy country who lives there as a law-abiding citizen until activated by a prearranged signal
    suicide bomber

    a terrorist who blows himself up in order to kill or injure other people
    type of:

    individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul

    a human being

  4. noun

    a character conveying the lexical meaning of a logogram

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    type of:

    character, grapheme, graphic symbol

    a written symbol that is used to represent speech

  5. noun

    (linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed


    base, root, root word, stem, theme

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    type of:

    descriptor, form, signifier, word form

    the phonological or orthographic sound or appearance of a word that can be used to describe or identify something

  6. adjective

    of or relating to or constituting a linguistic root

    radical verb form”

  7. noun

    an atom or group of atoms with at least one unpaired electron; in the body it is usually an oxygen molecule that has lost an electron and will stabilize itself by stealing an electron from a nearby molecule


    free radical

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    type of:


    (physics and chemistry) the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element

  8. noun

    (chemistry) two or more atoms bound together as a single unit and forming part of a molecule


    chemical group, group

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    acyl, acyl group

    any group or radical of the form RCO- where R is an organic group
    alcohol group, alcohol radical

    the chemical group -OH
    aldehyde group, aldehyde radical

    the chemical group -CHO
    alkyl, alkyl group, alkyl radical

    any of a series of univalent groups of the general formula CnH2n+1 derived from aliphatic hydrocarbons
    allyl, allyl group, allyl radical

    the univalent unsaturated organic radical C3H5; derived from propylene
    amino, amino group

    the radical -NH2

    a hydrocarbon radical that occurs in many organic compounds
    azido group, azido radical

    the univalent group N3- derived from hydrazoic acid
    azo group, azo radical

    the bivalent group -N=N- united to two hydrocarbon groups
    benzyl, benzyl group, benzyl radical

    the univalent radical derived from toluene
    benzoyl group, benzoyl radical

    the univalent radical derived from benzoic acid
    arsenic group, cacodyl, cacodyl group, cacodyl radical

    the univalent group derived from arsine
    carbonyl group

    the bivalent radical CO
    carboxyl, carboxyl group

    the univalent radical -COOH; present in and characteristic of organic acids

    the chemical group that gives color to a molecule
    cyanide group, cyanide radical, cyano group, cyano radical

    the monovalent group -CN in a chemical compound

    a trivalent radical derived from glycerol by removing the three hydroxyl radicals
    hydrazo group, hydrazo radical

    the bivalent group -HNNH- derived from hydrazine
    hydroxyl, hydroxyl group, hydroxyl radical

    the monovalent group -OH in such compounds as bases and some acids and alcohols
    ketone group

    a group having the characteristic properties of ketones
    methylene, methylene group, methylene radical

    the bivalent radical CH2 derived from methane
    propyl, propyl group, propyl radical

    the monovalent organic group C3H7- obtained from propane

    a hydrocarbon radical (C4H9)
    nitro group

    the group -NO3

    the radical -NO2 or any compound containing it (such as a salt or ester of nitrous acid)
    uranyl, uranyl group, uranyl radical

    the bivalent radical UO2 which forms salts with acids
    vinyl, vinyl group, vinyl radical

    a univalent chemical radical derived from ethylene
    acetyl, acetyl group, acetyl radical, ethanoyl group, ethanoyl radical

    the organic group of acetic acid (CH3CO-)
    ethyl, ethyl group, ethyl radical

    the univalent hydrocarbon radical C2H5 derived from ethane by the removal of one hydrogen atom

    an amino derivative of glucose that is a component of many polysaccharides

    (chemistry) the negative univalent acyl radical CHO that occurs in aldehydes
    methyl, methyl group, methyl radical

    the univalent radical CH3- derived from methane
    sodium nitrite

    nitrite used to preserve and color food especially in meat and fish products; implicated in the formation of suspected carcinogens
    type of:

    building block, unit

    a single undivided natural thing occurring in the composition of something else

  9. noun

    (mathematics) a quantity expressed as the root of another quantity

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    type of:

    amount, measure, quantity

    how much there is or how many there are of something that you can quantify

  10. adjective

    arising from or going to the root or source

    radical flaw in the plan”


    pertaining to or constituting a base or basis
  11. adjective

    especially of leaves; located at the base of a plant or stem; especially arising directly from the root or rootstock or a root-like stem

    radical leaves”


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    especially of leaves; growing on a stem especially on the upper part of a stem

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