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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Yet while French appetites for the delicacy have been largely undimmed by concerns over animal cruelty, another threat to avian welfare is now curbing consumption. Xu Xiaofei, CNN, 7 May 2022 Workers at a Naugatuck dog training business described grisly scenes of animal cruelty and death, along with casual handling of high explosives, according to an arrest warrant obtained Wednesday. Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant, 4 May 2022 He was also convicted of first-degree robbery, first-degree and third-degree burglary, burglary of a vehicle, animal cruelty for shooting a dog, and attempting to elude. Donna Thornton, USA TODAY, 30 Apr. 2022 At first, they were arrested on a variety of charges, from animal cruelty to drug possession, but by December 2021, Barnes had been charged with concealing a death, and Wamsley had received the same charge on Jan. 7, 2021, the sheriff's office said. Marlene Lenthang, NBC News, 27 Apr. 2022 Dozens of narcotics distribution and animal cruelty cases have gone untried, city officials say, and accused murderers have been allowed to walk free. Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2022 County Animal Control may look toward the sheriff’s office concerning animal cruelty charges. Garfield Hylton, Orlando Sentinel, 20 Apr. 2022 The crime is being investigated by the animal cruelty unit of the Montgomery County Precinct 2 Constables Office. Andrew Mark Miller, Fox News, 16 Apr. 2022 This was also the second animal cruelty case in the county in the last month, the office said. Globe Correspondent,, 8 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Statistics for cruelty

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cruelty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for cruelty


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on cruelty

Nglish: Translation of cruelty for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cruelty for Arabic Speakers


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