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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The European Union regards many of these laws as oppressive, and an infringement of the right to free speech. Paul Hannon, WSJ, "Ireland Votes to Overturn Constitutional Ban on Blasphemy," 27 Oct. 2018 Criticism of the group as oppressive and misogynistic was promulgated by disaffected former member Adrian J. Reimers, a former Notre Dame adjunct assistant professor of philosophy. Dan Hinkel, chicagotribune.com, "Potential Trump Supreme Court pick Barrett: Catholic Chicago judge stirs abortion debate," 5 July 2018 New York has one of the most oppressive political machine in the United States. Gabriella Paiella, The Cut, "The 28-Year-Old at the Center of One of This Year’s Most Exciting Primaries," 25 June 2018 Rosalind leaves the oppressive and violent dukedom ruled by her uncle. Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Women toppling patriarchy is a recurring theme in American Players Theatre season," 25 May 2018 Dietland — a sweeping fantasia that connects oppressive beauty standards and rape culture — opens with a montage of women hurting themselves to be beautiful: a woman sticking a finger down her throat, a razor blade slicing a breast. Anna Silman, The Cut, "Sharp Objects," 11 July 2018 Life in the camp is also hemmed in by its own oppressive rules. Deirdre Fernandes, BostonGlobe.com, "An education in hope," 7 July 2018 Temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 90s with oppressive humidity that will cause the heat index to reach 105 degrees, according to the Anne Arundel County Office of Emergency Management. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "With 105-degree heat index forecast, Anne Arundel County extends cooling centers through Thursday," 2 July 2018 The world’s preeminent human rights body has been criticized for its biased treatment of Israel and for overlooking the violations of some of the world’s most oppressive dictatorships. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "US exits UN rights body: Principled, or another retreat?," 20 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about oppressive

Share oppressive

Statistics for oppressive

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for oppressive

The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on oppressive

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


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!