des·​po·​tism ˈde-spə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce despotism (audio)
: oppressive absolute (see absolute sense 2) power and authority exerted by government : rule by a despot
an excess of law is despotism, from which free men revoltS. B. Pettengill
: oppressive or despotic exercise of power
educational despotism
: a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power : absolutism
: a despotic state
enduring the despotism of the czars

Examples of despotism in a Sentence

by the end of the 20th century many countries around the world had rejected despotism in favor of democracy
Recent Examples on the Web The third resembles despotism by a cruel master or absolute monarch. WIRED, 6 July 2023 In short, the flames kindled on the 4th of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism . . . Merrie Monteagudo, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 July 2023 McMahon built this empire through, at once, vision and despotism. Dan Greene, The New Yorker, 31 Mar. 2023 For the United States, the effort to prevent Sudan’s potential return to despotism is an unlikely role after decades in which the country was largely known for mass atrocities and as a haven for terrorists, including, for nearly five years in the 1990s, Osama bin Laden. Declan Walsh, New York Times, 3 May 2023 And while China remains at arm’s length from the rest of the international community, whatever A.I. research China will be involved in will be under the thumb of a state dictatorship with powerful incentives to keep it under some kind of control: a rare silver lining of despotism. Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic, 8 May 2023 In the process, Muratov has encountered a choice that has confronted many Nobel laureates who have stared down despotism before him: whether to cling to the purity of ideals (and shut the paper) or press on within the constraints of a repressive system (and keep it alive). Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2022 Anarchy and despotism are not vague possibilities. Fintan O’Toole, The New York Review of Books, 2 Mar. 2021 This is the problem of despotism. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'despotism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see despot

First Known Use

circa 1727, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of despotism was circa 1727

Dictionary Entries Near despotism

Cite this Entry

“Despotism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


des·​po·​tism ˈdes-pə-ˌtiz-əm How to pronounce despotism (audio)
: rule by a despot : tyranny
: a state or a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power

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