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 The state has acknowledged problems in its prisons but disputes the allegation that conditions violate the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Mike Cason |, al, 26 Sep. 2022 The Alabama execution has not been held up by the question of whether nitrogen hypoxia would be cruel and unusual. Dana G. Smith, Scientific American, 23 Sep. 2022 So why are healthcare groups saying that this law is going to be the most cruel yet for women? Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 8 Apr. 2022 The novel positions him as insensible to agendas, hopelessly subject to the whims of the altruistic and the cruel. Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2022 In the lawsuit, Crago alleges prison officials violated his Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to keep him safe, and his First Amendment rights when Pitz retaliated against him for speaking out. Jimmy Jenkins, The Arizona Republic, 14 Sep. 2022 Courts are finding that this is a violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 14 Sep. 2022 Attorneys for Le and Yoo had argued that, partly because of their youth, a life sentence would constitute cruel and unusual punishment barred by the Eighth Amendment. Salvador Rizzo, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2022 Trips could last for days; it wasn’t considered cruel and unusual punishment to include clubs residing in Maine, Virginia and Ohio in the same league. Mitchell Nathanson, The Conversation, 5 Sep. 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

3 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cruel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 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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