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 Where the Marxist heritage, being theory-minded and principle-bound, involves the primacy of the text, right-wing despotism, being romantic and charismatic, is buoyed by the shared spell cast between an orator and his mob. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Field Guide to Tyranny," 16 Dec. 2019 In those places, people who were in despotism’s firm grip rebelled and quickly learned how firm the grip was. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: Hong Kong stands athwart an increasingly nasty regime," 19 Sep. 2019 In Rulfo’s novel, the ghosts come to symbolize a rural Mexico emptied out by urbanization and local despotism in the aftermath of the country’s bloody revolution and ensuing Cristero War. Francisco Cantú, The New Yorker, "Téa Obreht Reimagines the Western," 12 Aug. 2019 In the 19th century, Russian Westernisers perceived China as an example of stagnation, bureaucracy, corruption and despotism. The Economist, "But their new partnership makes China a lot more equal than Russia," 25 July 2019 The Trump administration’s policies are often tougher on the world’s despotisms than those of his predecessors were. Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 11 July 2019 People realized that, on this crowded, hungry continent, democracy was more terrifying than despotism. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, "Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds," 17 June 2019 Deep social division, Lincoln said, can lead to either despotism or anarchy. David S. Reynolds, WSJ, "‘Becoming Lincoln’ Review: The Center That Held," 15 Feb. 2019 As with most open-source projects, the decisions regarding what gets added and changed are made through a mix of despotism and anarchy. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "If You Can't Beat It, Code It," 17 Dec. 2018

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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Time Traveler for despotism

Time Traveler

The first known use of despotism was circa 1727

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Cite this Entry

“Despotism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce despotism (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of despotism

: rule by a despot

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