noun, plural Bol·she·viks, Bol·she·vik·i [bohl-shuh-vik-ee, -vee-kee; Russian buh l-shi-vyi-kyee] /ˈboʊl ʃəˌvɪk i, -ˌvi ki; Russian bəl ʃɪ vyɪˈkyi/.

  1. (in Russia)
    1. a member of the more radical majority of the Social Democratic Party, 1903–17, advocating immediate and forceful seizure of power by the proletariat.
    2. (after 1918) a member of the Russian Communist Party.
  2. (loosely) a member of any Communist party.
  3. (often lowercase) Disparaging. a contemptuous term used to refer to an extreme radical or revolutionary.

noun plural -viks or -viki (-ˈviːkɪ)

  1. (formerly) a Russian CommunistCompare Menshevik
  2. any Communist
  3. (often not capital) jocular, derogatory any political radical, esp a revolutionary

1917, from Russian bol’shiy “greater,” comparative of adjective bol’shoy “big, great” (cf. Bolshoi Ballet), from Old Church Slavonic boljiji “larger,” from PIE root *bel- “strong” (cf. Sanskrit balam “strength, force,” Greek beltion “better,” Phrygian balaios “big, fast,” Old Irish odbal “strong,” Welsh balch “proud;” Middle Dutch, Low German, Frisian pal “strong, firm”).

It was the faction of the Russian Social Democratic Worker’s Party after a split in 1903 that was either larger or more extreme (or both) than the Mensheviks (from Russian men’shij “less”); after they seized power in 1917, applied generally to Russian communists. Bolshevism is recorded from 1917.

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