dys·​to·​pia | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈtō-pē-ə How to pronounce dystopia (audio) \

Definition of dystopia

1 : 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
2 : 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

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Examples of dystopia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

By 2045, when the film opens, humans have rendered the planet virtually uninhabitable, a dystopia in which American cities are endless slums and the have-nots, like its hero, Wade Watts, are relegated to rickety trailer-park towers. Scott Tobias, chicagotribune.com, "'Westworld' and 'Ready Player One' show how our relationship to artificial intelligence has changed," 27 Apr. 2018 Thankfully, despite all the dystopia on display, the film assures us there is light at the ends of those tunnels. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Trolley': Film Review | Hot Docs 2018," 14 May 2018 The Smart Cities ideal—at least, under non-authoritarian regimes—is to use all that data to provide services better and more efficiently, not to engender urban dystopia. Dan Rosenbaum, Ars Technica, "All hail the AI overlord: Smart cities and the AI Internet of Things," 7 Dec. 2018 But beyond that lay Wolf’s greater point: The White House currently resembles a misogynist dystopia, but the press has some complicity in this. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "It’s Okay to Be Offended by Michelle Wolf’s Jokes," 30 Apr. 2018 Raised as a Scientologist, the actress generally avoids answering questions about her participation in the Church, but responded to a fan who noted parallels between Scientology and the repressive dystopia of The Handmaid's Tale. Emma Dibdin, Marie Claire, "Elisabeth Moss Makes a Rare Comment Defending Scientology," 18 Aug. 2017 One of the most exciting fiction debuts of the year is Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black, a darkly satirical short story collection that plays on our ideas about race, capitalism, and dystopia. Constance Grady, Vox, "The author of Friday Black explains why he reimagined Black Friday as a zombie plague," 23 Nov. 2018 Not only are these texts comprised of very specific worldviews; their very successful authors are now very comfortable, even in our current dystopia. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Do We Really Need a Handmaid’s Tale Sequel?," 29 Nov. 2018 What The Walking Dead has done with the zombie genre, Colony was trying with dystopia, exploring the political microcosms and moral transmutations that evolve and persist in the face of seemingly never-ending apocalypse. Devon Maloney, The Verge, "Farewell to USA’s Colony, a rare dystopia that tried something new," 5 Aug. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of dystopia

circa 1950, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dystopia

New Latin, from dys- + -topia (as in utopia)

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More Definitions for dystopia



English Language Learners Definition of dystopia

: an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly


dys·​to·​pia | \ dis-ˈtō-pē-ə How to pronounce dystopia (audio) \

Medical Definition of dystopia

: malposition of an anatomical part

Other Words from dystopia

dystopic \ -​ˈtō-​pik How to pronounce dystopic (audio) , -​ˈtäp-​ik How to pronounce dystopic (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on dystopia

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dystopia

Nglish: Translation of dystopia for Spanish Speakers

Comments on dystopia

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


not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

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