cru·​el·​ty | \ ˈkrü(-ə)l-tē How to pronounce cruelty (audio) \
plural cruelties

Definition of cruelty

1 : the quality or state of being cruel
2a : a cruel action
b : inhuman treatment
3 : marital conduct held (as in a divorce action) to endanger life or health or to cause mental suffering or fear

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Examples of cruelty in a Sentence

a dictator known for his cruelty The cruelty of children can be surprising. They protested against cruelty to animals.
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Recent Examples on the Web The gentle, natural formula is cruelty-free, made in a USDA organic-certified facility, and free of both parabens or artificial colors. Braelyn Wood,, "This ‘Magic’ Anti-Aging Eye Cream Will Banish Wrinkles and Dark Circles," 12 Nov. 2019 Attention all animal lovers: Your options for cruelty-free beauty brands have grown considerably in the past decade. Allure, "19 Cruelty-Free Brands You Need to Know," 2 Nov. 2019 In addition to giving its proceeds to a good cause, the lip product is also cruelty-free and vegan. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Lipslut Announced “Impeach” Lip Gloss To Make a Statement In Favor of Trump’s Impeachment," 25 Oct. 2019 Lisa Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Sunshine Farm LLC in Montgomery, had a large booth at the Holiday Marketplace to sell her natural, cruelty-free and paraben-free home and personal care items. Savannah Mehrtens, Houston Chronicle, "22nd Annual Holiday Marketplace raises over $100K for local organizations," 23 Oct. 2019 Fashion houses have moved toward faux fur and vegan leather as consumers become more ethical shoppers embracing cruelty-free and eco-friendly brands. NBC News, "Macy's, Bloomingdale's to stop selling fur," 22 Oct. 2019 The company, which launched in May, provides vegan, cruelty-free pigments made without the most common nail-polish toxins—and with our melanin in mind as the first thought, not as an afterthought. Jennifer Ford, Essence, "The Compact," 10 Oct. 2019 As consumers get smarter, brands are expected to offer everything from cruelty-free and vegan formulas to all-encompassing shade ranges and eco-friendly packaging. Samantha Sasso,, "This Under-$15 Skin-Care Brand Is Giving Back To The U.S. Military In A Big Way," 24 Aug. 2019 To that end, Florence by Mills will be PETA-certified, vegan, and cruelty-free, and a percentage of the profits will go to the Olivia Hope Foundation, named for Brown's late friend Olivia Hope LoRusso. Kate Dwyer, Fortune, "Stranger Things Star Millie Bobby Brown Launches Gen Z Beauty Line," 20 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cruelty.' 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 cruelty

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cruelty

Middle English cruelte, from Anglo-French cruelté, from Latin crudelitat-, crudelitas, from crudelis

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Time Traveler for cruelty

Time Traveler

The first known use of cruelty was in the 13th century

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Statistics for cruelty

Last Updated

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Cruelty.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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More Definitions for cruelty


How to pronounce cruelty (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cruelty

: a desire to cause others to suffer : the quality or state of being cruel
: actions that cause suffering
: an act or occurrence that causes suffering


cru·​el·​ty | \ ˈkrü-əl-tē How to pronounce cruelty (audio) \
plural cruelties

Kids Definition of cruelty

1 : the quality or state of causing or wanting to cause suffering a man of cruelty
2 : treatment that causes suffering


plural cruelties

Legal Definition of cruelty

1a : an intentional or criminally negligent act that causes pain and suffering cruelty to animals cruelty to children
b : mistreatment or neglect that causes pain and suffering — compare abuse

Note: Cruelty is an aggravating circumstance to a crime (as murder).

2 : a spouse's conduct that endangers life or health or causes mental suffering or fear

called also cruel and inhuman treatment

Note: Cruelty is a ground for divorce.

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More from Merriam-Webster on cruelty

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cruelty

Spanish Central: Translation of cruelty

Nglish: Translation of cruelty for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cruelty for Arabic Speakers

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