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

Memphis hit 91 degrees around noon, and the dew point was 75, leading to oppressive humidity. Greg Porter, Washington Post, "This mesmerizing storm makes it look like a bomb went off over Memphis last night," 13 July 2018 Should a definition of terrorism exclude those such as pro-democracy activists in a country ruled by an oppressive and tyrannical regime? Stuart Macdonald, Scientific American, "How Tech Companies Are Trying to Disrupt Terrorist Social Media Activity," 26 June 2018 Mueller's hidden hand is one of the most oppressive forces in Washington. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Polar opposites Trump and Mueller barrel toward a showdown," 30 May 2018 The same forces that inspired Polanyi, Mises found oppressive. Patrick Iber, The New Republic, "How neoliberalism shapes the global economy and limits the power of democracies," 23 Apr. 2018 But amid oppressive smog in the 1960s, California was allowed to request a waiver. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Fuel Economy Fraud," 3 Apr. 2018 Temperatures in Doha that day were in the mid-90s, the sunshine felt oppressive, and the playing field was uncovered, open to all the elements. Andrew Keh, New York Times, "The 2022 World Cup Plants Some Trees and Prepares to Step Into the Spotlight," 12 July 2018 Orlandoans will face a slight chance of rain and oppressive temperatures Thursday, according to the National Weather Service office in Melbourne. Stephen Ruiz, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Orlando weather: Hot temperatures remain, along with chance of rain," 12 July 2018 And although the dystopian nightmare facing the handmaids in the theocratic Republic of Gilead (formerly America's East Coast) has grown more oppressive and violent, the second season has featured themes of growing rebellion among the captives. Erin Ben-moche, latimes.com, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Finale event brings questions and answers," 10 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

18 Sep 2018

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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

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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