op·​press ə-ˈpres How to pronounce oppress (audio)
oppressed; oppressing; oppresses

transitive verb

: to crush or burden by abuse of power or authority
The country has long been oppressed by a ruthless dictator.
oppressed minorities
archaic : suppress
: to burden spiritually or mentally : weigh heavily upon
oppressed by a sense of failure
oppress by intolerable guilt
oppressor noun
Choose the Right Synonym for oppress

wrong, oppress, persecute, aggrieve mean to injure unjustly or outrageously.

wrong implies inflicting injury either unmerited or out of proportion to what one deserves.

a penal system that had wronged him

oppress suggests inhumane imposing of burdens one cannot endure or exacting more than one can perform.

a people oppressed by a warmongering tyrant

persecute implies a relentless and unremitting subjection to annoyance or suffering.

a child persecuted by constant criticism

aggrieve implies suffering caused by an infringement or denial of rights.

a legal aid society representing aggrieved minority groups

Examples of oppress in a Sentence

The country has long been oppressed by a ruthless dictator. They condemned attempts by the government to oppress its citizens. people who have traditionally been oppressed by society
Recent Examples on the Web But Hisham was tired of feeling humiliated and oppressed. Rozina Ali, New York Times, 28 Feb. 2024 South Africa has compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Gaza to the treatment of Black South Africans during apartheid, framing the issues as fundamentally about people oppressed in their homeland. Wafaa Shurafa and Samy Magdy The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 25 Feb. 2024 Palestinians have been oppressed, isolated and traumatized in a war that Israel has long been waging before this latest declaration. Reader Commentary, Baltimore Sun, 3 Feb. 2024 Playtime Feeling oppressed in a world devoid of emotions and limited to chores and expectations, a young married woman in 1750 rural Austria commits a shocking act of violence. Ed Meza, Variety, 15 Feb. 2024 Rather than a tangle of systemic forces privileging and oppressing whole categories of person, Curb throws open the gates of a global asylum run by 8 billion maniacs, all weaponizing their differences against one another. TIME, 2 Feb. 2024 This is the third iteration of the club; Kovalev first opened Karma in Minsk before the 2020 elections oppressed the more liberal communities there. Adam Robb, Condé Nast Traveler, 15 Jan. 2024 In that view, Jews are viewed as the oppressors and the Palestinians are seen as oppressed, with resulting antisemitism — and lack of protection from the school — that is frightening many students. Susan Svrluga, Washington Post, 4 Feb. 2024 Does Washington want a world in which the balance of power tilts toward freedom and individual liberty, or a world dominated by brutal autocrats oppressing their own people and terrorizing their neighbors? Daniel Twining, National Review, 23 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


Middle English oppressen "to put pressure on, crush, burden, overwhelm," borrowed from Anglo-French oppresser, borrowed from Medieval Latin oppressāre, frequentative derivative from Latin oppressus, past participle of opprimere "to press on, stifle, overpower," from ob- ob- + premere "to press" — more at press entry 2

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Time Traveler
The first known use of oppress was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near oppress

Cite this Entry

“Oppress.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppress. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


op·​press ə-ˈpres How to pronounce oppress (audio)
: to control or rule in a harsh or cruel way
a country oppressed by a dictator
: to cause to feel burdened in spirit
oppressed by grief
oppressor noun

More from Merriam-Webster on oppress

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