In coverage of the ongoing Brexit votes, I'm seeing individuals being referred to as “arch-remainers”. Google also suggests there's some minor usage of the term “arch-leaver”. I've never heard this terminology before, possibly because I haven't been closely following UK politics until recently.

For example, BBC's live coverage of Brexit just included the quote:

This is from the Labour peer Andrew Adonis, who is an arch-remainer.

What does arch-remainer here mean? Does that mean they're just a big figure in the remainer scene?

  • I think they use it to refer to people who have been prominent members of either the leave or remain campaign; as opposed to people who simply voted one way or the other.
    – JeffUK
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 20:16

2 Answers 2


Depending on context, usage and who is accusing whom of what this could either be a label for

  • a "chief" of a group (qv. archbishop, a high ranking cleric in charge of other bishops, arch-duke)
  • a more "extreme" or "worse" version (q.v. 'arch-fiend').
  • An original or founder member (this is by far the least likely version).

These are effectively the common usages in 'arch' + noun, see e.g dictionary.com (alternatively the OED gives a massive number of examples). Of course, as so often with language it could also imply several other similar things (e.g. a fundamentalist who is unwilling to compromise).

  • Small observation: This appears to be more of a linguistic answer than a political answer. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 10:04
  • 7
    @RedGrittyBrick This is essentially a linguistic question. While it's being used in a political context in the media, it's still just words at the moment. Three years isn't long enough for it to have developed a specific, commonly understood special meaning through use.
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 11:19
  • The question nis the specific meaning of a specific term in a politicval context. This does not answer that questiion at all. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 15:18
  • I think the last definition is actually the most likely version. It's used to describe people who've been prominent, vocal members of either camp since the beginning
    – JeffUK
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 20:21

The media likes simple ideas and simple language. The two sides of the debate on leaving the EU were characterised as Leavers and Remainers. Leaver was replaced by the portmanteau word Brexit (Grexit was used before this when Greece came close to leaving the EU due to their national debt problems).

So advocates of Remain became Remainers and those of Brexit became Brexiteers (much better than Brexitists). To describe the most notable of these, journalist prefixed 'arch', which has the uses listed by origimbo.

There's also another usage of arch, as described by Merriam-Webster and that is mischievous. That could add an element of troublemaking to the descriptions

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