atroc·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈträ-sə-tē How to pronounce atrocity (audio) \
plural atrocities

Definition of atrocity

1 : a shockingly bad or atrocious act, object, or situation the atrocities of war
2 : the quality or state of being atrocious … the paralysing atrocity of the thought which occupied her.— Joseph Conrad

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Examples of atrocity in a Sentence

Atrocities were committed by forces on both sides of the conflict. Who could be capable of such atrocity?
Recent Examples on the Web Keefe makes the atrocities committed more comprehensible. The Atlantic, "The 15 Best Books of 2019," 24 Dec. 2019 No other atrocity in modern times has gained the singularity of a proper name, with such biblical resonance and an entire field of academic study to ensure that its horrors are not forgotten. Peter E. Gordon, The New York Review of Books, "Why Historical Analogy Matters," 7 Jan. 2020 Pakistan’s dictatorship was slaughtering its Bengalis in one of the worst atrocities of the cold war. The Economist, "The art of the shadow deal Presidents have sometimes favoured back channels in foreign policy," 21 Nov. 2019 Switzerland’s neutrality during World War II shielded Frank and his family from the atrocities of the Nazi regime, and Frank was able to apprentice with photographers and graphic desingers in Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Photographer Robert Frank, Who Exposed the Alienation and Heartbreak of America, Dies at 94," 10 Sep. 2019 This unit committed the worst atrocities of the war. Rachel Nolan, The New Yorker, "A Translation Crisis at the Border," 30 Dec. 2019 Relatedly, the study also drew attention to teachers who struggle to have open and honest conversations in mixed-race classrooms about the atrocities of slavery. Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic, "What Kids Are Really Learning About Slavery," 1 Feb. 2018 But Ban faced intense criticism for holding his tongue as atrocities mounted., "UN secretary general holds his tongue on human rights violations," 12 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'atrocity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of atrocity

1534, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for atrocity

see atrocious

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Time Traveler for atrocity

Time Traveler

The first known use of atrocity was in 1534

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Statistics for atrocity

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Atrocity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for atrocity


How to pronounce atrocity (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of atrocity

: a very cruel or terrible act or action


atroc·​i·​ty | \ ə-ˈträ-sə-tē How to pronounce atrocity (audio) \
plural atrocities

Kids Definition of atrocity

: an extremely cruel or terrible act, object, or situation the atrocities of war

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