adjective op·pres·sive \ ə-ˈpre-siv \
Updated on: 18 Apr 2018

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





Examples of oppressive in a Sentence

  1. The country is ruled by an oppressive regime.

  2. I think these laws are oppressive.

  3. This region suffers from oppressive heat in the summer months.

  4. The situation was extremely tense; no one said a word, and the silence was oppressive.

Recent Examples of oppressive from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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

OPPRESSIVE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of oppressive for English Language Learners

  • : very cruel or unfair

  • : very unpleasant or uncomfortable

OPPRESSIVE Defined for Kids


adjective op·pres·sive \ ə-ˈpre-siv \

Definition of oppressive for Students

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



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to treat with excessive attention

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