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 The creepy infections and resulting dystopia have many viewers wondering: how realistic is this scenario and could this potentially happen in real life? Devika Rao, The Week, 20 Feb. 2023 Cronenberg’s previous film, 2020’s Possessor, also debuted at Sundance and provoked audiences with an uncompromising vision of dystopia and body horror. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Jan. 2023 In his tale, ILLENIUM escapes dystopia to find love’s magic and sparks in the forest, but the pull of old habits and systems weighs heavy alongside his family’s tragedy. Riley Van Steward, Forbes, 24 Jan. 2023 These remarks are both a stab at contemporary discontent and also an example of how humor can be a coping mechanism for dystopia. Edna Bonhomme, The Atlantic, 1 Nov. 2022 It’s set in Granite City, an everyday dystopia where Stallone lugs his body around with a reluctant roughneck shamble. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 25 Aug. 2022 Tawada’s words are easy to understand—in this novel more than ever—and her dystopia is Day-Glo bright. Natasha Wimmer, The New York Review of Books, 16 Feb. 2023 Now The world of Ilze Hugo’s debut novel, The Down Days, is a queasily familiar dystopia: a quarantined city beset by an epidemic and festering paranoia. Wired Staff, Wired, 2 July 2020 Often regarded as Mugler’s masterpiece, it’s housed in a gallery made of mirrors, glass boxes, and tiny sparkling lights, immersing guests into a setting reminiscent of the novel's dystopia. Tara Gonzalez, Harper's BAZAAR, 18 Nov. 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 Mar. 2023.

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

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