op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv How to pronounce oppressive (audio) \

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 One corporate training is not going to shift decades worth of oppressive and toxic workplace culture. Janice Gassam Asare, Forbes, 6 Oct. 2021 In June, all-time record temperatures fell by the wayside as cities like Seattle soared to 108 degrees, while Portland baked under an oppressive and unprecedented 116 degrees. Jennifer Gray, CNN, 12 Aug. 2021 For the third time this summer, Massachusetts residents will likely again have to suffer through an oppressive wave of heat. BostonGlobe.com, 11 Aug. 2021 The Pacific Northwest is once again battling an oppressive heat wave as temperatures soared close to 100 degrees in parts of Oregon and Washington state this week, the latest freak weather upending the lives of millions of Americans. Washington Post, 31 July 2021 Two firefighters were killed Saturday in Arizona as wildfires raged through the West, threatening California's overburdened power grid during an oppressive heat wave and ongoing drought. NBC News, 10 July 2021 Then last summer, an oppressive heat wave triggered the first rolling outages in 20 years. Daisy Nguyen, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 July 2021 The oppressive heat wave was caused by a dome of high pressure over the region, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Julia Musto, Fox News, 30 June 2021 The sound was bold without being messy or oppressive, grand without being overbearing. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, 2 Oct. 2021

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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Time Traveler for oppressive

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The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oppressive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppressive. Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of oppressive

: very cruel or unfair
: very unpleasant or uncomfortable


op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv How to pronounce oppressive (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on oppressive

Nglish: Translation of oppressive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oppressive for Arabic Speakers


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