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 The vast forests of the eastern United States, thronged with tangled undergrowth and towering canopies, can feel daunting and oppressive. Michael Bond, Wired, "Why Humans Totally Freak Out When They Get Lost," 13 May 2020 The Salem Fair began in 1988 and has overcome oppressive heat, gale force winds and torrential downpours, according to a city news release. Washington Post, "Officials cancel Salem Fair because of COVID-19 outbreak," 12 May 2020 Nor has the Governor demonstrated sympathy to his constituents or justified his oppressive measures. Audrey Mcnamara, CBS News, "Protesters in Maryland call for reopening as states remain divided over easing restrictions," 2 May 2020 Of course human beings can be violent and cruel and domineering and oppressive. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "How TV Romance Got Radical," 30 Apr. 2020 Societal structures shaped by oppressive structural forces of casteism, classism, communalism, elitism, and patriarchy render a certain section vulnerable. Anup Agarwal & Yogesh Jain, Quartz India, "India’s coronavirus response needs to address the question of social inequity," 29 Mar. 2020 To be sure, governments can be oppressive and autocrats will exploit a crisis to grab power. Naomi Oreskes, Time, "We Need Big Government to Save Us from the Pandemic," 17 Apr. 2020 Set in a seminary in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War in the 1980s, the film tells the story of two young seminarians who must choose between faith and politics as the oppressive regime tries to control the Catholic Church. Sarah Hucal, ABC News, "Berlin Film Festival highlights dark themes on its 70th anniversary," 29 Feb. 2020 Especially in a film about teenagers, whose avalanche of feelings can never be painted in colors vivid enough, the slow tempo and faded worldview feels especially oppressive — though Heather McIntosh’s twinkly score offers a welcome glimmer of hope. Mary Sollosi, EW.com, "To the Stars is a tender, heartbreaking coming-of-age story: Review," 24 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

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Statistics for oppressive

Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oppressive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppressive. Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for oppressive


How to pronounce oppressive (audio)

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

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Comments on oppressive

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