dra·​co·​ni·​an drā-ˈkō-nē-ən How to pronounce draconian (audio)
often capitalized
law : of, relating to, or characteristic of Draco or the severe code of laws held to have been framed by him
: cruel
also : severe
draconian littering fines

Did you know?

Draconian comes from Draco, the name of a 7th-century B.C. Athenian legislator who created a written code of law. Draco's code was intended to clarify existing laws, but its severity is what made it really memorable. According to the code, even minor offenses were punishable by death, and failure to pay one's debts could result in slavery. Draconian, as a result, became associated with especially authoritative actions that are viewed as cruel or harsh.

Examples of draconian in a Sentence

The editorial criticizes the draconian measures being taken to control the spread of the disease.
Recent Examples on the Web The hate-speech law currently under consideration is sweeping and draconian; it could be enforced only in a capricious way. The Editors, National Review, 29 Nov. 2023 The draconian punishment for one silly video seemed unfair, Ms. Watkins said. Kashmir Hill, New York Times, 27 Nov. 2023 There’s Japan, which supplied workers after draconian Chinese exclusions were enacted, in percussionist/composer Haruka Fujii, flute player and percussionist Kaoru Watanabe and Japanese-American violinist Michi Wiancko. Steve Hochman, SPIN, 20 Nov. 2023 Hamas was voted into power by the Palestinian people in 2007 and quickly began a draconian reign of terror. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 20 Nov. 2023 According to the Stat investigation and the lawsuit, the estimates are often draconian. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 16 Nov. 2023 Xi, meanwhile, is arguably in worse shape, with China’s economy slumping, investor capital fleeing the country, and the deep damage wrought by Beijing’s draconian mishandling of the pandemic still being measured. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2023 Even in places that still have draconian laws on the books, local communities have started to advocate for change. Danielle Pointdujour, Travel + Leisure, 11 Nov. 2023 Others lament the inability to enroll their girls in schools, given the draconian edicts of the extremists in charge in Kabul. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin Dracon-, Draco, from Greek Drakōn Draco (Athenian lawgiver)

First Known Use

1775, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of draconian was in 1775


Dictionary Entries Near draconian

Cite this Entry

“Draconian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/draconian. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

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