atroc·i·ty | \ə-ˈträ-sə-tē \
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

People may dismiss as fake genuine footage, say of a real atrocity, to score political points. Deb Riechmann, The Seattle Times, "I never said that! High-tech deception of ‘deepfake’ videos," 3 July 2018 To focus on the human, unencumbered by some form of spectacular political narrative — no glimpses of atrocities, no backroom conversations of resistance — is another form of freedom, Huang says. Brandon Yu,, "Yang Huang’s stories chart a family’s life in China," 27 June 2018 Most of us feel helpless in the face of ongoing international atrocities, and dunking on their perpetrators on Twitter functions is always a helpful outlet. Liz Raiss, GQ, "Kim Jong-un Looks Like He's Wearing Lifts," 12 June 2018 Nobody comes off looking good, except the Syrian civilians and their humanitarian helpers who still try to feed families, tend the sick, bury the dead, shelter the refugees, and record the atrocities for history, if not for justice. Heather Hurlburt, Daily Intelligencer, "The Moral High Ground on Syria Is Empty," 9 Apr. 2018 Forna, a Scottish former BBC reporter, has previously written about the long aftermath of war and atrocity, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone. Will Boast, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Happiness,’ by Aminatta Forna," 5 Apr. 2018 Some refuse to condemn atrocities of the past, while others strive to keep them from being forgotten. Kristin M. Jones, WSJ, "‘Putin’s Russia: A 21st Century Film Mosaic’ Review: Culture on Camera," 15 June 2018 Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world. Katie Reilly, Time, "A Valedictorian Was Barred From Delivering His High School Graduation Speech. He Spoke by Megaphone Instead," 28 May 2018 After the Second World War, Nazi attorneys at the Nuremberg trials used Hall’s writings, and those of Eugenics contributors, as palliatives for Nazi atrocities. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 11 May 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near atrocity





à trois



Statistics for atrocity

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for atrocity

The first known use of atrocity was in 1534

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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 \
plural atrocities

Kids Definition of atrocity

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

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Comments on atrocity

What made you want to look up atrocity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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