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What word describes a person who blindly (unquestioningly) follows a government or religion? I am looking for a specific word that I came across recently but have since forgotten what is was and where I found it. It is similar to zealot in definition but it is not zealot or any of the synonyms typically presented in a thesaurus. I believe the definition more emphasized the unquestioning aspect rather than the fanaticism.

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    I don't know of any questioning zealot. – Kris Dec 14 '14 at 6:56
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    A word for a person ... you emphasize not the person. Can you clarify what you mean by this? – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 10:24
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    @Anybody: seems there is confusion on the exact requirement in your question (see below). Second the request for clarity - I think the question title and the body do not 100% align. – Zayne S Halsall Dec 14 '14 at 10:44
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    Can Anybody answer? Does Anybody know? – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 11:22
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    "True believer" is probably pretty close. Or perhaps "ideologue". – Hot Licks Dec 14 '14 at 19:59

14 Answers 14

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One obvious contender is fanatic, and the related adjective fanatical:

NOUN

1 A person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

Much to the chagrin of my room-mates, come election time I will roam around extolling the necessity of voting with the zeal of a religious fanatic.

The extreme right wing religious fanatics truly scare me beyond belief.

Wesley's eyes glint with a religious fanatic's zeal.

(Definition and examples from Oxforddictionaries.com)

You could also describe such a person as a slavish adherent / slavish supporter [of something].

  • This does not answer the question. "fanatic" is a synonym for "zealot", and like "zealot", does not include 'unquestioning' in its definition. – Zayne S Halsall Dec 14 '14 at 9:42
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    @ZayneSHalsall - I disagree. If your zeal is both excessive and single-minded, the extent to which you are questioning your devotion must necessarily be minimal. – Erik Kowal Dec 14 '14 at 9:58
  • It's hard to say that the answer won't help the OP, but technically, Zayne is right. Someone who's fanatical (probably) can't be questioning (critical), but would not describe a person who unquestionably but unenthusiastically follows a government or religion. O.o – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 10:45
  • @JimReynolds - If you follow a government or religion unenthusiastically, then you can't be described as a fanatic even if you also follow it unquestioningly (which I assume is the word you meant to use). – Erik Kowal Dec 14 '14 at 10:54
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    @ ErikKowal The OP did not, (maybe) want to include enthusiasm as central to the construct. If the OP wants a word for one who does or tends to unquestioningly (and that's fixed, thanks) but not zealously follow, then fanatical cannot work. Also, he wants a word that describes a person, so it cannot be a noun, but must be an adjective. "Uncritical" is part of at least one dictionary definition of fanatic/fanatical: dictionary.reference.com/browse/fanatical. But the definition of fanatical is vitally related to intensity, and the OP (maybe) wants a word that means an uncritical follower. – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 11:09
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I think you might have been looking for "ideologue."

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ideologue Definition of ideologue 1: an impractical idealist : theorist 2: an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology

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The word "devotee" is suggestive of unwavering (and perhaps quasi-religious) personal commitment.

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acolyte (originally one who assists a priest, but later a follower)

MW lists synonyms as:

follower, adherent, convert, disciple, epigone, liege man, partisan (also partizan), pupil, votarist, votary

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APPARATCHIK

A word I have not heard in many years but that I believe applies to many in our current political climate (garnered from Merriam-Webster online) :

In the context of the definition of "apparatchik" (a term English speakers borrowed from Russian), "apparat" essentially means "party machine." An "apparatchik," therefore, is a cog in the system of the Communist Party. The term is not an especially flattering one, and its negative connotations reflect the perception that some Communists were obedient drones in the great Party machine. In current use, however, a person doesn't have to be a member of the Communist Party to be called an "apparatchik"; he or she just has to be someone who mindlessly follows orders in an organization or bureaucracy.

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    I believe you are wrong about the "current use". A person must be a member of the "apparat" (the ruling party or other organs of government) to be considered an apparatchik. – michael.hor257k Dec 17 '16 at 21:12
  • This came verbatim from Merriam-Webster so if someone is wrong it is Merriam-Webster but thanks for your input. – GEORGE Dec 18 '16 at 18:17
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A sheep.

2. a. A person regarded as timid, weak, or submissive. b. One who is easily swayed or led.

But in my experience, it's rarely used as in He/she is a sheep. It seems more common to use as a plural noun (maybe because sheep tend to follow as a flock). It also seems to be used in simile forms: follow/obey like sheep.

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    This does not answer the question. "sheep", like "zealot", neither means nor includes 'unquestioning' in its definition. – Zayne S Halsall Dec 14 '14 at 9:55
  • Right. A one-word adjective naming the attribute of unquestionably following a government or religion. – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 10:30
  • Unless I'm misreading OP (very possible, perhaps clarity in question will help), "sheep" may match 'unquestioning' but does not match 'zealot' as well, which was the question. – Zayne S Halsall Dec 14 '14 at 10:43
  • There is the neologism "sheeple" which fits the OP's requirements moderately well. – Hot Licks May 18 '16 at 3:07
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I would suggest "unquestioning" as the adjective you seek.

"Zealous" is associated more with eagerness than blind faith (and "blindly faithful" is an appropriate adjectival phrase), but could still work; "convicted" is perhaps a little archaic for modern use, but I'll note it anyway.

Bear in mind, though, that the society that originated these words viewed faith in authority - divine or secular - as an unequivocal good.

  • zealot would be the noun – Colin Jun 9 '17 at 6:22
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An unconditional believer in the Fed's interest rate policy would have (dictionary.com) absolute, not limited by conditions, faith in Dr. Yellens manipulations of the federal funds rate.

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Dogmatic:

Inclined to lay down principles as undeniably true

I believe dogmatic is the word you are looking for.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

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Bigot. (one obstinately and irrationally, often intolerantly, devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion. - Webster)

Two instances from Google Books: 1 2

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    Bigots may tend to follow unquestioningly, but I think the defining characteristic of the term has more to do with attitudes that hold outsiders or others as inferior. – Jim Reynolds Dec 14 '14 at 7:51
  • Zealot means negative, when we describe it to "unquestioning" its negative meaning increases. A sheep is not a zealot necessarily, because he/she is not impassioned eagerness especially in favor of a person or a cause usually; a sheep is more a passive person than a fanatic person. – user64617 Dec 14 '14 at 8:07
  • A sheep follows the rules because he/she has to do it or he/she is apathetic person. About a sheep i think there is a apathetic sense in him/her to authority. – user64617 Dec 14 '14 at 8:18
  • @user64617: Your answer doesn't answer this question. "zealot" neither implies nor includes unquestioning in its definition, therefore OP is looking for a single word that does that (i.e. 'unquestioning' + 'zealot'). A "bigot" is not the same as a "zealot": former describes intolerance towards non-partisan opinions/beliefs, latter fervor/passion towards partisan opinions/beliefs. And "bigot", like "zealot", neither implies nor includes unquestioning in its definition. – Zayne S Halsall Dec 14 '14 at 9:39
  • "Zealot" and "bigot" both describe fervor/passion toward partisan opinions/beliefs. But "bigot" also describes intolerance towards non-partisan opinions/beliefs. A text what the words have used in them reflects being unquestioning or not. – user64617 Dec 14 '14 at 10:18
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I think the word idolatrous pertains more specifically to the question at hand; with a specific definition in terms of unfettered and uncriticising devotion to something.

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Try myrmidon. Defined by Vocabulary.com as a follower who carries out orders without question, and Oxford English Dictionaries on line adds, typically one who is unscrupulous.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage Matthew. I have edited your answer to include hyperlinks to your sources. Those links are usually needed. – J. Taylor Nov 29 '18 at 12:59
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Confirmation bias is the term I learned from my brother-in-law. It described someone who blindly follows the beliefs of a group, such as a political party.

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I don't see fascist here, and I would think it deserves consideration. The Elusive Definition of 'Fascist' is a pretty deep -- and interesting -- dive.

  • Fascism might be an unpalatable political view to most, but you've failed to demonstrate that fascists are any more blind or unquestioning than adherents of any other political view. – Chappo Sep 22 '18 at 11:07
  • @Chappo To fail to do something requires an attempt to do it. I haven't made any such attempt. On that basis I disagree with you. – BobRodes Sep 23 '18 at 17:30
  • What you're therefore saying is that you haven't attempted to answer the question, since you've singled out one unique category of political adherent, possibly as a personal political comment. BTW, your linked article decries the very use of fascist that you're proposing. – Chappo Sep 23 '18 at 23:42
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    To fail at doing something requires an attempt to do it.   To fail to do something requires no such attempt. – Scott Sep 24 '18 at 1:45
  • @Chappo "Possibly as a personal political comment" is a bit of a reach, although, of course, anything is possible. Your statement is possibly an attempt at a personal attack, for example. I didn't understand that I needed to demonstrate why I mentioned the word; perhaps this is an unspoken requirement of which I was unaware. My thought on mentioning the term is that fascism is characterized by authoritarian rule that doesn't brook opposition, and logic would therefore suggest that adherents of it are willing to follow an authoritarian ruler who doesn't brook opposition. – BobRodes Oct 6 '18 at 1:55

protected by Mitch Apr 4 at 19:01

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