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 cruelty-free lip mousse comes in over a dozen colors, including Mauve Pink, Red, Blackberry, and Medium Warm Brown. Robin Raven, Forbes, "Mother’s Day Gift Guide: The Best Vegan Makeup For Traveling Moms," 27 Apr. 2021 Anisa makes makeup and skin-care brushes too, which are cruelty-free and, according to its website, sustainably made. Gear Team, Wired, "17 Best Weekend Deals on Earth-Friendly Gear and More," 24 Apr. 2021 Save 20% sitewide on cocokind’s wide array of sustainable and cruelty-free skincare products through today, April 22. Melissa Lee, USA TODAY, "All the best sales to shop for Earth Day 2021," 22 Apr. 2021 Love Goodly has brands that are cruelty-free, organic, non-GMO, eco-friendly and vegan. oregonlive, "The best green beauty brands good for your skin and the planet: Earth Day," 22 Apr. 2021 Freedom Moses and Jonathan Simkhai collaborated on three pairs of slide sandals that are recyclable, cruelty-free, and vegan. Rachel Besser, Vogue, "The New Arrivals On our Radar This Week," 21 Apr. 2021 The cruelty-free formula moisturizes lips and is available in six other modern colors. Erica Metzger, Better Homes & Gardens, "Celeb Makeup Artist Daniel Martin Shares a Genius Hack to Make Your Lipstick Last All Day," 16 Apr. 2021 Once applied, the skin-safe, waterproof and cruelty-free tattoo's lines develop into a dark blue or black color over the first 24 hours, gradually fading away as the skin exfoliates. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "BTS Teams Up With Inkbox for 'Dynamite' Inspired Temporary Tattoo Collection," 14 Apr. 2021 According to the brand, its product formulas are vegan, cruelty-free and biodegradable. Rebecca Rodriguez, NBC News, "Why one shopping writer uses Youth to the People for all her skin care needs," 14 Apr. 2021

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

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cruelty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for cruelty



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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