cruel

adjective

cru·​el ˈkrü(-ə)l How to pronounce cruel (audio)
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 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 The year was 1989 and the world was an extremely cruel place, not just for people suffering from AIDS, but also for LGBTQ people in general. Eva Hartman, Los Angeles Times, 5 June 2024 The reality of driving home alone at nights having lost a game and sometimes in a cruel way is real. Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune, 5 June 2024 Image For the perpetrators, disappearances carry a cruel logic. Matthieu Aikins Bryan Denton, New York Times, 22 May 2024 Lucy and Gregory begin to feel something for each other, but Lucy is betrothed to be wed to someone else, in a setup by her cruel. Kari Sonde, TIME, 21 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for cruel 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cruel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near cruel

Cite this Entry

“Cruel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cruel. Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

cruel

adjective
cru·​el ˈkrü-əl How to pronounce cruel (audio)
crueler or crueller; cruelest or cruellest
1
: ready to hurt others : without humane feelings
a cruel ruler
2
a
: causing or helping to cause suffering
a cruel joke
b
: showing no mercy
cruel punishment
cruelly adverb
cruelness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on cruel

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