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 In addition to her new music, Williams has been keeping busy with her vegan and cruelty free hair dye company, Good Dye Young. Brianne Tracy,, "Paramore's Hayley Williams Teases New Solo Project Set for 2020 Release: It's 'Really Special'," 30 Dec. 2019 The world is changing, but what if there was a way to aid and embrace that change without inspiring hatred and cruelty? Nick Romano,, "Studio Ghibli: A beginner's guide through the worlds of Spirited Away, Mononoke, and beyond," 24 Dec. 2019 Nail Artist Jessica Washick uses Orly's vegan and cruelty free polishes to create these funky multicolored waves. Vanessa Paredes, Redbook, "Ring in the New Year with These Chic Nail Trends," 16 Dec. 2019 There’s a core instability to the relationships in his work, heightened by his refusal to buff out the pettiness and casual cruelty. Scott Tobias, New York Times, "‘Marriage Story’: Noah Baumbach’s First Feel-Good Movie," 13 Dec. 2019 Other students with posters on topics like immigration and animal cruelty were also asked to redo their posters, a representative for the district told CNN. Leah Asmelash, CNN, "Sacramento elementary school violated free speech by censoring Black Lives Matter posters, ACLU says," 23 Nov. 2019 Over the years Koller has had his veterinary license suspended and revoked multiple times due to drug-abuse and animal-cruelty allegations. oregonlive, "Daniel Koller, Beaverton veterinarian with long history of battling animal-cruelty allegations, arrested on new abuse charges," 15 Nov. 2019 Early fame, and the public cruelty that too often accompanies it, can be a desperately brutal experience, as too many child stars have demonstrated. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Justin Bieber Opened Up About His Heavy Drug Use and Toxic Relationships in Early Fame," 3 Sep. 2019 Sean Bartlett, 38, was arrested on counts of possession of child pornography and cruelty to a non-livestock animal. Dallas News, "Two men arrested after child porn, video of dachshund torture found on Wylie computer, investigators say," 16 July 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

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cruelty.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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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

Comments on cruelty

What made you want to look up cruelty? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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