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

Other Words from cruel

cruelly \ ˈkrü-​(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cruel (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 In addition to being cruel, the miserable conditions risk forging them into a network of extremists numbed to violence and angry at the world. New York Times, 19 July 2022 Both parents would beat the children, but Kathy’s brand of punishment could be especially cruel, the person said. Johnny Edwards, ajc, 17 June 2022 The suggestion that the pandemic helped foment the violence seemed cruel, when his family had suffered so deeply these past two years. New York Times, 28 May 2022 Withholding them would be cruel, and would also likely deepen anti-Western resentments. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2022 Our slow reckoning in health and healthcare meant many were unfairly judged, with some suffering through conversion therapy that is wrong, mentally cruel, and has no basis in science. Bill Frist, Forbes, 1 July 2022 The New York that Baldwin gives us, wrapped in racial and erotic conflict, is kinetic, nonstop, isolating, gorgeous and, finally, cruel. New York Times, 30 June 2022 But to live with doubt means accepting the sad, cruel, surprising and sometimes wonderful capriciousness of the world. Thomas Curwenstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 10 June 2022 The cat declawing ban Hogan signed on Thursday will make Maryland just the second state to outlaw the increasingly controversial practice, which animal welfare advocates describe as cruel, unnecessary and inhumane. Baltimore Sun, 21 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for cruel

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for cruel

Last Updated

4 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cruel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for cruel


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

More from Merriam-Webster on cruel

Nglish: Translation of cruel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cruel for Arabic Speakers


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