des·​pot | \ ˈde-spət How to pronounce despot (audio) , -ˌspät \

Definition of despot

1a : a ruler with absolute power and authority tyrannical despots
b : one exercising power tyrannically : a person exercising absolute power in a brutal or oppressive way regards the basketball coach as a despot
2a : a Byzantine emperor or prince
b Christianity : a bishop or patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church
c : an Italian hereditary prince or military leader during the Renaissance

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Examples of despot in a Sentence

He was a successful basketball coach, but many people regarded him as a petty despot. The company is run by a benevolent despot.
Recent Examples on the Web Two are flotsam from the former Soviet Union, the despots of Belarus and Turkmenistan. The Economist, "Bello Jair Bolsonaro isolates himself, in the wrong way," 8 Apr. 2020 Untold decades of backing despots and death squads in Latin America produced the multitudes of desperate migrants who have come to our borders, pleading for help. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "The Striking Gesture," 27 Apr. 2020 European and American policymakers are undoubtedly betting that the firm hand of a friendly despot is a simpler way to secure Western interests. Anthony Bubalo, The New Republic, "The Perpetual Weakness of Middle East Despots," 17 Mar. 2020 This is a story of how a heroic underdog became a monarch who was then mythologized as a violent despot—despite being no bloodier than her father, Henry VIII, or other English monarchs. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Myth of ‘Bloody Mary’," 12 Mar. 2020 But after the Cold War, the West no longer regarded Kenya as a strategic outpost, and Mr. Moi was increasingly seen as a despot. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "Daniel arap Moi, Autocratic and Durable Kenyan Leader, Dies at 95," 3 Feb. 2020 Many were pleasantly surprised that Mr Kabila, a despot who had ruled for 18 years, was no longer president. The Economist, "How do you reform a country where gunmen torch Ebola clinics?," 2 Aug. 2019 American laws have allowed foreign despots, terror networks and drug cartels to benefit, said Gary Kalman, director of the Transparency International's U.S. office. Fox News, "Which countries are considered the most corrupt?," 6 Feb. 2020 As infections and death tolls rise exponentially, so will the pressure on unenlightened despots to demonstrate their power over people’s freedoms of movement. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "The Casualties of the “War” on the Coronavirus," 17 Mar. 2020

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

1585, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for despot

Middle French despote, from Greek despotēs master, lord, autocrat, from des- (akin to domos house) + -potēs (akin to posis husband); akin to Sanskrit dampati lord of the house — more at dome, potent

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Time Traveler for despot

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The first known use of despot was in 1585

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Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Despot.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce despot (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of despot

: a ruler who has total power and who often uses that power in cruel and unfair ways
formal : a person who has a lot of power over other people


des·​pot | \ ˈde-spət How to pronounce despot (audio) \

Kids Definition of despot

: a ruler having absolute power and authority and especially one who rules cruelly

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More from Merriam-Webster on despot

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for despot

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with despot

Spanish Central: Translation of despot

Nglish: Translation of despot for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of despot for Arabic Speakers

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