op·pres·sion | \ ə-ˈpre-shən \

Definition of oppression 

1a : unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power the continuing oppression of the … underclasses —H. A. Daniels

b : something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power unfair taxes and other oppressions

2 : a sense of being weighed down in body or mind : depression an oppression of spirits

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Examples of oppression in a Sentence

suffered a lingering oppression in the weeks after his dog died

Recent Examples on the Web

As our antagonists spar over their place on the totem pole of privilege and oppression, Emilie gets in a good zinger about how many theater companies are run by gay white men. Kerry Lengel, azcentral, "Review: Nearly Naked Theatre's 'The Submission' is how NOT to add to the diversity debate," 3 July 2018 Even the members of our community who claim no religious affiliation are familiar with the Biblical narratives that tell of the ancient Israelites fleeing slavery, servitude and oppression in Egypt. Rabbi Asher Knight - Special To The Observer Editorial Board, charlotteobserver, "Republicans are abusing religion to defend their abuse of children," 19 June 2018 Here Smith reckons with our history of violence and oppression while affirming the endurance of love — between strangers, between family members, between God and humankind. Diana Whitney, San Francisco Chronicle, "New poetry by Tracy K. Smith, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Shauna Hannibal," 28 May 2018 They are not yet indoctrinated into the performance of the system; their powers of perception and inclination to question has not yet been eroded by years of bumping up against oppression both subtle and overt. Danielle Tcholakian, Longreads, "The Manipulative Power of ‘You Understand’," 14 May 2018 The town is a hideaway but also a holdout, where depictions of resistance against oppression also decorate the walls. Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times, "A reporter feels the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s promised land on a Mexican mountaintop," 31 Mar. 2018 You, the debut film from musician Boots Riley, faces the difficult task of puncturing the ever-more-absurd heights of real-life oppression and inequality in America. Vann R. Newkirk Ii, The Atlantic, "Sorry to Bother You Is a Dystopian Send-Up of Dystopias," 13 July 2018 But the major appeal of the film, for me, was the willingness to honestly insert race and class as interlocking systems of oppression that keep the capitalist machine going. refinery29.com, "Sorry To Bother You," 10 July 2018 Flynn has long blamed U.S. policies toward South and Central America for the poverty and oppression that has forced desperate people to risk everything to come here. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "Retired priest takes fight against immigration policy to the streets," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oppression.' 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 oppression

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

History and Etymology for oppression

Middle English oppressioun, borrowed from Anglo-French oppression, borrowed from Latin oppressiōn-, oppressiō "action of pressing on or overpowering," from oppres- or *oppret-, variant stem of opprimere "to press on, stifle, overpower" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at oppress

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for oppression

The first known use of oppression was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for oppression


op·pres·sion | \ ə-ˈpre-shən \

Kids Definition of oppression

: cruel or unjust use of power or authority


op·pres·sion | \ ə-ˈpre-shən \

Legal Definition of oppression 

: an unjust or excessive exercise of power: as

a : unlawful, wrongful, or corrupt exercise of authority by a public official acting under color of authority that causes a person harm

b : dishonest, unfair, wrongful, or burdensome conduct by corporate directors or majority shareholders that entitles minority shareholders to compel involuntary dissolution of the corporation

c : inequality of bargaining power resulting in one party's lack of ability to negotiate or exercise meaningful choice — see also unconscionability

Other words from oppression

oppressive \ə-ˈpre-siv \ adjective

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Comments on oppression

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