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

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Other Words from cruel

cruelly \ ˈkrü-​(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cruelly (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 According to Facebook's community standards, the social media platform removes posts that include hate speech, violent and graphic content, nudity, and cruel and insensitive content, among others. Mckenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Facebook is not removing a photo of Rashida Tlaib being arrested in 2018," 31 July 2020 How cruel and poetic that the pandemic now requires the rest of New York to forgo the same spirited gatherings that Pop Smoke is no longer alive to witness. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Unfinished Business of a Young Rap Star," 7 July 2020 In 1976, the US Supreme Court, in Gregg v. Georgia, ruled 7-2 the death penalty was not inherently cruel or unusual., "This day in history," 2 July 2020 Camouflaj is particularly cruel in making its players move from one interior, dialogue-only location to the next multiple times in a single mission, then subjecting them to atrocious loading screens between each. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Iron Man VR review: A sad, painful end to the PS4’s PlayStation VR era," 2 July 2020 To just about all of us who live in a world without co-pays and silver/gold/platinum plans, almost everything about the U.S. healthcare system seems capricious, crazy and cruel. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "China passes its contentious new security law, rattling global investors," 30 June 2020 James Darke, a retired English teacher, spent months at home wallowing in gloomy thoughts, replaying wistful memories and berating the cruel and idiotic ways of the world and his fellow man. The Economist, "Not going gently When love means saying goodbye," 11 July 2020 Infectious disease specialists say the worldwide pandemic is especially cruel to people with Type A blood, which apparently lacks certain compounds that help fight off the disease. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: Blood type among potential COVID-19 risk factors," 10 July 2020 For Goya’s once-loyal customers who have been affected by Trump’s cruel policies and attacks on the Latinx community, there’s no way to support the brand now in good conscience. Elly Belle,, "Customers Are Boycotting Goya Foods After The Company’s CEO Openly Praised Trump," 10 July 2020

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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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 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cruel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for cruel


How to pronounce cruel (audio)

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 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on cruel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cruel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cruel

Spanish Central: Translation of cruel

Nglish: Translation of cruel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cruel for Arabic Speakers

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