op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv \

Definition of oppressive

1 : unreasonably burdensome or severe oppressive legislation oppressive taxes the oppressive power of corporations and Wall Street— Jim Hightower
2 : tyrannical an oppressive government
3 : overwhelming or depressing to the spirit or senses an oppressive climate the dusty drabness that was oppressive in its uneventfulness— Geoffrey Moorhouse

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Other Words from oppressive

oppressively adverb
oppressiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for oppressive

onerous, burdensome, oppressive, exacting mean imposing hardship. onerous stresses being laborious and heavy especially because distasteful. the onerous task of cleaning up the mess burdensome suggests causing mental as well as physical strain. burdensome responsibilities oppressive implies extreme harshness or severity in what is imposed. the oppressive tyranny of a police state exacting implies rigor or sternness rather than tyranny or injustice in the demands made or in the one demanding. an exacting employer

Examples of oppressive in a Sentence

The country is ruled by an oppressive regime. I think these laws are oppressive. This region suffers from oppressive heat in the summer months. The situation was extremely tense; no one said a word, and the silence was oppressive.
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Recent Examples on the Web

And yes, the success of the liberal order was accompanied by disasters like the Vietnam War, and American policies were often misguided, selfish, oppressive and resented. Robert Kagan, WSJ, "The Cost of American Retreat," 7 Sep. 2018 America has had violent, oppressive and racist voices throughout its history. Beth Johnston, Washington Post, "On Independence Day, celebrate not just the foundation of the country, but its tradition of dissent," 3 July 2018 The conference styles itself as an alternative to a liberal culture of feminism that many Republicans characterize as oppressive. New York Times, BostonGlobe.com, "Conservative women’s conference is a refuge for Trump’s fans," 17 June 2018 After winning six of its last seven, Georgia Tech was worn down by Notre Dame’s oppressive man-to-man defense and inside attack on offense. Charles Odum, The Seattle Times, "No. 2 Notre Dame overwhelms Georgia Tech, makes No. 1 case," 6 Jan. 2019 Will she be taken to freedom or does an alternative to the oppressive regime even exist anymore? Bridget Read, Vogue, "Do We Really Need a Handmaid’s Tale Sequel?," 29 Nov. 2018 If Lippmann had his way, the public would be liberated from its oppressive fictions, but at the price of everything just about democracy. Sean Illing, Vox, "Intellectuals have said democracy is failing for a century. They were wrong.," 20 Dec. 2018 The crisp citrus notes cut through even the most oppressive of Hong Kong humidity, making it particularly enjoyable while lounging on the beach or manning a steamy barbecue. Kate Springer, Condé Nast Traveler, "Inside Hong Kong's Craft Beer Revolution," 17 Aug. 2018 First-generation immigrant Elaine Musiwa explores her experience with, and ultimate rejection of, an oppressive American hair standard. Elaine Musiwa, Allure, "Goodbye to "Good Hair": How I Learned to Love My Natural Texture After Moving to America," 25 July 2018

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

circa 1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for oppressive

borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French oppressif, borrowed from Medieval Latin oppressīvus, from Latin oppressus, past participle of opprimere "to press on, stifle, overpower" + -īvus -ive — more at oppress

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Last Updated

20 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for oppressive

The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

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More Definitions for oppressive



English Language Learners Definition of oppressive

: very cruel or unfair
: very unpleasant or uncomfortable


op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv \

Kids Definition of oppressive

1 : cruel or harsh without just cause oppressive laws
2 : very unpleasant or uncomfortable oppressive heat

Other Words from oppressive

oppressively adverb

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Comments on oppressive

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