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 This week, journalists at The New York Times published the interactive article a 3-D virtual tour of that neighborhood, Greenwood, where the atrocity took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921. New York Times, 30 May 2021 Ironically, this region of the country, including Galveston, is the region where the atrocity of slavery thrived. Marshall Shepherd, Forbes, 18 June 2021 Ernest Medina, commanding officer of the unit that committed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, then considered the worst atrocity in U.S. military history. David Colker, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2021 Rather than remember and atone for this atrocity, Tulsa began efforts to erase the incident from history. Charles M. Blow, CBS News, 30 May 2021 Northern newspaper reports referred to the battle as an atrocity. Adrian Sainz, Star Tribune, 1 June 2021 Over the weekend, over 130 civilians were killed by an Islamic State affiliate in Burkina Faso—the country’s worst terrorist atrocity. WSJ, 10 June 2021 And the call to bring the police into line has struck a resounding chord in a country weary of war and atrocity at the hands of a host of paramilitaries, guerrilla fighters and security forces. New York Times, 12 May 2021 Christy's painting, then, though ostensibly celebratory, also depicts the elemental schism and atrocity at the root of American history. Karl Kusserow, CNN, 3 May 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near atrocity



à trois

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Statistics for atrocity

Last Updated

25 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Atrocity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for atrocity



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

More from Merriam-Webster on atrocity

Nglish: Translation of atrocity for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of atrocity for Arabic Speakers


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