op·​pres·​sive ə-ˈpre-siv How to pronounce oppressive (audio)
: unreasonably burdensome or severe
oppressive legislation
oppressive taxes
the oppressive power of corporations and Wall StreetJim Hightower
: tyrannical
an oppressive government
: overwhelming or depressing to the spirit or senses
an oppressive climate
the dusty drabness that was oppressive in its uneventfulnessGeoffrey Moorhouse
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.
Recent Examples on the Web It’s evolved beyond the physical chains of enslavement to include the subtler, yet equally oppressive, social expectations and norms that continue to bind Black individuals. Rachel Ventresca, Fortune, 6 June 2024 All had fled an oppressive situation and were seeking a better life in America. Rick Mauch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 31 May 2024 For some Chinese visitors, both tourists and those with work and residence visas, that appeal has been heightened by an increasingly oppressive environment for LGBTQ+ people back home. Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times, 30 May 2024 Image Image The hundreds of motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars and farming vehicles on display exuded the nostalgia that many here feel for a vanished country that — despite its oppressive dictatorship — was home for decades. Christopher F. Schuetze, New York Times, 30 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for oppressive 

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

Dictionary Entries Near oppressive

Cite this Entry

“Oppressive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppressive. Accessed 18 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


op·​pres·​sive ə-ˈpres-iv How to pronounce oppressive (audio)
: cruel or harsh without just cause
oppressive taxes
: causing a feeling of oppression
oppressive heat
oppressively adverb
oppressiveness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on oppressive

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