dic·​ta·​tor | \ ˈdik-ˌtā-tər How to pronounce dictator (audio) , dik-ˈtā- \

Definition of dictator

1a : a person granted absolute emergency power especially, history : one appointed by the senate (see senate sense 1a) of ancient Rome
b : one holding complete autocratic control : a person with unlimited governmental power
c : one ruling in an absolute (see absolute sense 2) and often oppressive way fascist dictators
2 : one who says or reads something for a person to transcribe or for a machine to record : one that dictates (see dictate entry 1 sense 1)

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of dictator in a Sentence

The country was ruled by a military dictator. the dictator had a fierce stranglehold on the country, keeping its people in poverty and ignorance
Recent Examples on the Web Putin is already the longest-serving leader of the world’s largest country by landmass since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Ilya Arkhipov, Fortune, "With approval ratings at an all-time low, Putin is making moves to stay in power until he’s 83," 28 June 2020 The only democratic revolution still standing is in Tunisia, where the protests began and the first dictator fell. Daniel Byman, Washington Post, "For the Middle East, the Arab Spring was a rare chance to control its own fate," 26 June 2020 McConnell was referring to the famous moment in 2003 when a 40-foot bronze statue of the Iraqi dictator was roped and pulled to the ground, symbolizing the end of his regime. Fox News, "Trump signs executive order to protect American monuments, memorials and statues," 26 June 2020 Most importantly, Russia and Iran continue to prop up the dictator. The Economist, "From bad to worse Bashar al-Assad has no solutions to Syria’s crisis," 20 June 2020 This past Christmas Day was the 30th anniversary of the public execution by firing squad of Romania’s last Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who’d ruled for 24 years. Melissa Fay Greene, The Atlantic, "Can an Unloved Child Learn to Love?," 18 June 2020 Ruben Varias Reyes, a Philippine diplomat who left the foreign service after questioning extravagant purchases by the family of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died March 25 at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Richard C. Paddock, BostonGlobe.com, "Ruben Varias Reyes, diplomat who questioned Marcos spending, dies at 79," 4 June 2020 Students are taught how Adolf Hitler, who was democratically elected, used divisive rhetoric and the country’s military to consolidate himself as a dictator. Ciara Nugent, Time, "‘The Edge of an Abyss.’ How the World’s Newspapers Are Responding as the U.S. Descends Into Chaos," 2 June 2020 In Italy, dictator Benito Mussolini's crypt in the town of Predappio has seen annual pilgrimages by the far-right, just as far-right activists in Spain were drawn to the mausoleum of Francisco Franco before his remains were moved last year. Tim Lister, CNN, "Cathartic acts of rage, or the rewriting of history? How statues became political lightning rods," 14 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dictator.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of dictator

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dictator

Middle English dictatour, borrowed from Latin dictātor, from dictāre "to say repeatedly, speak aloud words to be transcribed by another, issue as an order" + -tor, agent suffix — more at dictate entry 1

Note: Though formally a derivative of dictāre, the noun dictātor is attested perhaps two centuries earlier in Latin and may be an independent formation, though the model for it is not clear; the sense "issue as an order" of dictāre may reflect influence of dictātor. The form tictator used in the Old English translation of Orosius's Historiae Adversum Paganos had no subsequent use.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dictator

Time Traveler for dictator

Time Traveler

The first known use of dictator was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for dictator

Last Updated

1 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dictator.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictator. Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dictator


How to pronounce dictator (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dictator

: a person who rules a country with total authority and often in a cruel or brutal way


dic·​ta·​tor | \ ˈdik-ˌtā-tər How to pronounce dictator (audio) \

Kids Definition of dictator

: a person who rules with total power and often in a cruel manner

Other Words from dictator

dictatorship \ dik-​ˈtā-​tər-​ˌship \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on dictator

What made you want to look up dictator? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!