cruel

adjective cru·el \ ˈkrü(-ə)l \
Updated on: 12 Nov 2017

Definition of cruel

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

cruelly

play \ˈkrü-(ə-)lē\ adverb

cruelness

noun

Examples of cruel in a Sentence

  1. a cruel twist of fate

  2. Hunger is a cruel fact of nature.

Recent Examples of cruel from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of cruel

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

Synonym Discussion of 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


CRUEL Defined for English Language Learners

cruel

adjective

Definition of cruel for English Language Learners

  • —used to describe people who hurt others and do not feel sorry about it

  • : causing or helping to cause suffering : terrible and unfair


CRUEL Defined for Kids

cruel

adjective cru·el \ ˈkrü-əl \

Definition of cruel for Students

crueler or crueller; cruelest or cruellest
1 : wanting to cause others to suffer
  • a cruel ruler
2 : causing or helping to cause suffering
  • cruel punishment
  • a cruel joke

cruelly

adverb


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