des·​po·​tism | \ ˈde-spə-ˌti-zəm How to pronounce despotism (audio) \

Definition of despotism

1a : 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 revolt— S. B. Pettengill
b : oppressive or despotic exercise of power educational despotism
2a : a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power : absolutism
b : a despotic state enduring the despotism of the czars

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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 Yet the despotism and nihilism of Marxism, Stalin’s cause, is ultimately indistinguishable from the power outlook at the heart of Putinism. Bartle Bull, WSJ, 4 May 2022 Tocqueville called this enervated condition democratic despotism, the soft, passive twin of majority tyranny. Jedediah Britton-purdy, The New Republic, 22 Apr. 2022 The compendium of National Review journalism expressing a trenchant hostility to despotism is legendary. Peter J. Travers, National Review, 29 Mar. 2022 Muratov, in his Nobel lecture, cast a free press as a counteragent for such despotism, likening journalists to dogs that keep the caravan of society moving forward. Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2022 The public position against Russian Federation in all areas is a loud cure for despotism. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 7 Mar. 2022 Free societies have an obligation to demonstrate their revulsion toward despotism. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 26 Feb. 2022 Yet this isn't the first time of judicial despotism in American history. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 17 Jan. 2022 Then she was uprooted again after building a life for herself and starting a family, this time driven away by Castro’s despotism. Manuel Roig-franzia, Washington Post, 1 Nov. 2021 See More

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

circa 1727, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for despotism

see despot

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The first known use of despotism was circa 1727

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Despotism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on despotism

Nglish: Translation of despotism for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of despotism for Arabic Speakers


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