dys·​to·​pia (ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə How to pronounce dystopia (audio)
: an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives
There's almost a flavor of science fiction to the scenes Chilson describes, as though he were giving us a glimpse into a 21st-century dystopia of mad egoism and hurtling hulks of metal. Adam Goodheart
Over the course of the movie, the late-60's ideal of togetherness turns into a dystopia of violence, revulsion and finally death. John Leland
: anti-utopia sense 2
writing a dystopia
… leaping across the century to the 1990's to attempt a dystopia about the disintegration of Australian democracy into startling, irreversible despotism. Pearl K. Bell

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Thousands have taken to the streets seeking a change in what has become a nightmarish theocratic dystopia, rivaled only by the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Bobby Miller, National Review, 7 Oct. 2022 With his oppressive ideal — an absolute sublime — Boullée proposed a utopia and dystopia all at once. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 6 Oct. 2022 Set in a dystopia where civil liberties are eroding and anti-Asian hate goes unchecked, Celeste Ng’s third novel, Our Missing Hearts (Penguin Press) explores otherness and race. Riza Cruz, ELLE, 4 Oct. 2022 Alice enjoys the fantasy atmosphere of a cul-de-sac subdivision that resembles the Edward Scissorhands fairy tale, the dystopia of Downsizing, and the Desperate Housewives prime-time soap opera. Armond White, National Review, 28 Sep. 2022 Betsy Johnson is firmly behind the wheel, driving through an urban dystopia of poverty and despair. Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2022 The complaint is filled with hypotheticals of a dystopia where cisgender girls disappear from the victory podium but a complaint requires allegations of facts. Lori Riley, Hartford Courant, 29 Sep. 2022 And a lot of people don't want this kind of dystopia where the cashless society is used to bring a much larger level of surveillance into people's lives. Lauren Goode Gideon Lichfield, WIRED, 26 Sep. 2022 Celeste Ng's latest is a compelling and brutal telling of a too-real dystopia. Katie Bowlby, Country Living, 21 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History


dys- + -topia (in utopia)

First Known Use

circa 1950, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dystopia was circa 1950

Dictionary Entries Near dystopia

Cite this Entry

“Dystopia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



: an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly
also : a work of literature about such a place

Medical Definition



dys·​to·​pia dis-ˈtō-pē-ə How to pronounce dystopia (audio)
: malposition of an anatomical part
dystopic adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on dystopia

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.