re·​pres·​sion | \ ri-ˈpre-shən \

Definition of repression 

1a : the action or process of repressing : the state of being repressed repression of unpopular opinions
b : an instance of repressing racial repressions
2a : a mental process by which distressing thoughts, memories, or impulses that may give rise to anxiety are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious
b : an item so excluded

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from repression

repressionist \ ri-​ˈpre-​sh(ə-​)nist \ adjective

Examples of repression in a Sentence

the state's repression of its citizens They survived 60 years of political repression.

Recent Examples on the Web

So far, the talks have cautiously avoided a direct spotlight on the North’s staggering record of abuses and political repression in apparent attempts to keep the outreach with Kim Jong Un from unraveling. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, "A North Korean defector paid smugglers to get her family out. China sent them back.," 27 June 2018 Xhaka and Shaqiri are both of Kosovo-Albanian heritage but grew up in Switzerland due to Serbian repression in Kosovo in the 1990s. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Switzerland goal scorers could be suspended for 'controversial gestures'," 23 June 2018 Traffic is rising for various reasons: civil wars in Libya, Yemen, Syria and both Sudans, as well as repression in Eritrea. Alex Perry, Newsweek, "Migrants and the New Mediterranean Mafia," 10 June 2015 With financial repression, governments evade market discipline and the borrowing and spending charade continues. WSJ, "Sooner or Later, Our Growing Debt Will Bite," 18 Dec. 2018 The suit has a long and storied history, one that includes political subversion and violent repression. Mariana Gonzalez, Teen Vogue, "How the Zoot Suit Became a Symbol of Resistance for Mexican-American People," 21 Sep. 2018 The Kremlin will also have to keep attention away from its own repression at home. The Economist, "Russia prepares to welcome 1m visitors for the World Cup," 13 June 2018 China’s internal Internet repression is world-famous. Simon Denyer, Washington Post, "U.S. retailer Gap apologizes to China over map on T-shirt that omits Taiwan, South China Sea," 15 May 2018 And your grandchildren will never know the firsthand heartache of repression. Alex Ward, Vox, "John Bolton just gave an “Axis of Evil” speech about Latin America," 1 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'repression.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of repression

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about repression

Share repression

Statistics for repression

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for repression

The first known use of repression was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for repression



English Language Learners Definition of repression

: the act of using force to control someone or something

: the state of being controlled by force

: the act of not allowing a memory, feeling, or desire to be expressed


re·​pres·​sion | \ ri-ˈpresh-ən \

Medical Definition of repression 

1 : the action or process of repressing gene repression
2a : a process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious — compare suppression sense c
b : an item so excluded

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on repression

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


involving abstract or general statements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Liar, Liar Quiz

  • alt-5761dbe2ba986
  • Someone who pretends to be sick in order to avoid work is a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!