cru·​el | \ˈkrü(-ə)l \
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 \ 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

Trump’s cruel policies might delay that — but for how long? Will Bunch,, "Can Trump's slow-motion ethnic cleansing keep whites in U.S. majority? | Will Bunch," 12 July 2018 On Wednesday, the Fourth of July, a woman climbed up the robes of the Statue of Liberty to protest the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies — and refused to come down until after a three-hour standoff with police. Lisa Ryan, The Cut, "A Woman Climbed the Statue of Liberty to Protest Trump’s Immigration Policies," 5 July 2018 His misdeeds, corruption and cruel policies deserve to be confronted and fought. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Donald Trump, the resistance, and the limits of normcore politics," 3 July 2018 The real question is whether the sights and sounds from the border that turned the cruel Trump/Sessions policy into a political disaster will get that much better now that children are no longer suffering on their own. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Ends Family Separations By Ordering Family Detentions," 20 June 2018 Hollywood’s revolt against the Trump administration’s cruel policy of separating asylum seeking parents and children at the U.S. border continues. Laura Bradley, HWD, "One Day at a Time," 20 June 2018 Among the leading voices vehemently opposing the cruel zero-tolerance policy is film director and screenwriter Ava DuVernay. Michelle Darrisaw,, "Ava DuVernay Speaks Out Against Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy: ‘We Cannot Allow This’," 20 June 2018 And not only that, Moore is automatically kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, an action proved to be especially cruel to those with intellectual disabilities. Angela Helm, The Root, "Why Is Bobby Moore Still on Death Row, Despite a Recent Supreme Court Decision in His Favor?," 19 May 2018 In a cruel self-fulfilling twist on the Middle Child Syndrome, statistics show that a family’s ideal size has shrunk to two kids, leaving the middleborns to go the way of the mastadon. Katie Kosma, Longreads, "Losing the Middle Ground," 13 July 2018

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

12 Nov 2018

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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 \
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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