cru·​el | \ ˈkrü(-ə)l How to pronounce cruel (audio) \
crueler or crueller; cruelest or cruellest

Definition of cruel

1 : disposed to inflict pain or suffering : devoid of humane feelings a cruel tyrant has a cruel heart
2a : causing or conducive to injury, grief, or pain a cruel joke a cruel twist of fate
b : unrelieved by leniency cruel punishment

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Other Words from cruel

cruelly \ ˈkrü-​(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cruelly (audio) \ adverb
cruelness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for cruel

fierce, ferocious, barbarous, savage, cruel mean showing fury or malignity in looks or actions. fierce applies to humans and animals that inspire terror because of their wild and menacing aspect or fury in attack. fierce warriors ferocious implies extreme fierceness and unrestrained violence and brutality. a ferocious dog barbarous implies a ferocity or mercilessness regarded as unworthy of civilized people. barbarous treatment of prisoners savage implies the absence of inhibitions restraining civilized people filled with rage, lust, or other violent passion. a savage criminal cruel implies indifference to suffering and even positive pleasure in inflicting it. the cruel jokes of schoolboys

Examples of cruel in a Sentence

a cruel twist of fate Hunger is a cruel fact of nature.

Recent Examples on the Web

And as if fate were not cruel enough, the announcement comes 21 years and a day after the last successful land speed record attempt, one that involved many of the same people. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "1,000mph land speed record project now in doubt due to funding woe," 15 Oct. 2018 The imitation was crude and cruel, but the point was again to make a woman sound stupid, too clueless to make her own decisions. Glamour, "Tucker Carlson Said Furious Women Should Watch Him. Here’s What I See.," 19 Mar. 2019 At school, none of the nuns were cruel, just stern and virtuous. Marc Myers, WSJ, "Sweeping Floors Cleared the Way for Ann Dowd’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Success," 21 Aug. 2018 In 1992, incensed by the cruel policies of Margaret Thatcher, Jackson left behind a thriving acting career for politics, serving as a Labour party MP in the House of Commons for 23 years. Adam Green, Vogue, "Glenda Jackson and Ruth Wilson on Bringing a Modern King Lear to Broadway," 19 Mar. 2019 The schedulers could be extra cruel and pit the Buckeyes against Holtmann's former team, Butler. Tim Bielik,, "The most interesting young players to watch in Ohio State's spring game: Buckeyes football analysis," 11 Apr. 2018 On Twitter, folks were equally shocked and pretty upset with her for playing such a cruel joke on the singers. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "See 'American Idol' Judge Katy Perry's Most Controversial Moments on the Show," 3 Mar. 2019 The government shutdown is literally driving people out of their homes and starving them, the trans military ban is unconstitutional and beyond cruel. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Supreme Court Allows Trump's Transgender Military Ban to Go Into Effect Temporarily," 22 Jan. 2019 Needless to say, her cruel and abusive husband, the Duke of Monmouth does not agree with the situation. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Victoria Sneak Peek: Watch as Queen Victoria Declares the Great Exhibition Open," 27 Feb. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cruel.' 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 cruel

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cruel

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin crudelis, from crudus — see crude entry 1

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Statistics for cruel

Last Updated

14 May 2019

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Time Traveler for cruel

The first known use of cruel was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of cruel

used to describe people who hurt others and do not feel sorry about it
: causing or helping to cause suffering : terrible and unfair


cru·​el | \ ˈkrü-əl How to pronounce cruel (audio) \
crueler or crueller; cruelest or cruellest

Kids Definition of cruel

1 : wanting to cause others to suffer a cruel ruler
2 : causing or helping to cause suffering cruel punishment a cruel joke

Other Words from cruel

cruelly adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on cruel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cruel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cruel

Spanish Central: Translation of cruel

Nglish: Translation of cruel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cruel for Arabic Speakers

Comments on cruel

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


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