adjective, often capitalized
dra·​co·​ni·​an | \ drā-ˈkō-nē-ən How to pronounce draconian (audio) , drə- \

Definition of draconian

1 law : of, relating to, or characteristic of Draco or the severe code of laws held to have been framed by him
2 : 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 In recent weeks the pace of such announcements has picked up with more international companies in Hong Kong venting their displeasure with the territory's draconian COVID policies and signaling their intention to move employees elsewhere. Simon Willis, Fortune, 22 Feb. 2022 And despite South Carolina’s draconian slave laws, a surprising number of black Charlestonians were literate, opening the community to diverse intellectual influences and subversive communications from antislavery interests. Marc M. Arkin, WSJ, 20 Mar. 2022 However, a draconian national-security law was passed in mid-2020, press freedoms have been curtailed, and political figures have been imprisoned, causing a mass exodus from the city. Sheon Han, The Atlantic, 30 Mar. 2022 The court's conservative supermajority turned a friendly ear to Mississippi's draconian law in December. Joanne Bamberger, The Week, 18 Mar. 2022 As other countries have moved away from lockdowns and social distancing, Beijing has touted the success of its draconian measures in keeping the number of cases low, despite a mounting toll on its people and economy. Liyan Qi, wsj.com, 17 Mar. 2022 The approach has been criticized by some for being draconian, but if Omicron explodes into a crippling outbreak worldwide, Chinese policymakers will probably feel emboldened to double down. Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2021 The protests stalled under covid, and Beijing was able to impose a draconian new security law that gutted the opposition, jailing or exiling pro-democracy leaders. Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2022 Some companies are fleeing Hong Kong because of its draconian COVID measures, and their top destination appears to be Singapore. David Meyer, Fortune, 23 Feb. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of draconian

1775, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for draconian

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

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The first known use of draconian was in 1775

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Last Updated

28 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Draconian.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/draconian. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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