ruth·​less | \ ˈrüth-ləs also ˈru̇th- How to pronounce ruthless (audio) \

Definition of ruthless

: having no pity : merciless, cruel a ruthless tyrant

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Other Words from ruthless

ruthlessly adverb
ruthlessness noun

What's the Difference Between Ruthless and Ruthful

Ruthless can be defined as "without ruth" or "having no ruth." So what, then, is ruth? The noun ruth, which is now considerably less common than ruthless, means "compassion for the misery of another," "sorrow for one's own faults," or "remorse." And, just as it is possible for one to be without ruth, it is also possible to be full of ruth. The antonym of ruthless is ruthful, meaning "full of ruth" or "tender." Ruthful can also mean "full of sorrow" or "causing sorrow." Ruth can be traced back to the Middle English noun ruthe, itself from ruen, meaning "to rue" or "to feel regret, remorse, or sorrow."

Examples of ruthless in a Sentence

The journalist was ruthless in his criticism. an office supervisor with a ruthless disregard for others' feelings

Recent Examples on the Web

Things did not work out as smoothly for the Western-aligned Congo, however: The country was taken over by Mobutu Sese Seko, who would change its name to Zaire and lead one of the most corrupt and ruthless dictatorships of the 20th century. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "That Time a CIA Spyplane Had to Dodge a Spear During the Cold War," 14 Jan. 2019 Sympathetic stealth violence The vision of Lara as a dogged, tenacious survivor clashes inexorably with the competing vision of her as a cold-blooded and ruthless jungle predator. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Shadow of the Tomb Raider review: Fighting for my life and loving it," 10 Sep. 2018 Fonzo will center on the ruthless businessman and bootlegger who ruled Chicago with an iron fist at the age of 47. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, "Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon Join Tom Hardy in Al Capone Movie 'Fonzo'," 16 Mar. 2018 Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges that Ongwen rose swiftly through the ranks because of his reputation as a ruthless killer. Mike Corder, The Seattle Times, "Defense lawyer casts Ugandan war crimes defendant as victim," 18 Sep. 2018 Risha and his parents were members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, a group led by ruthless preacher Tony Alamo. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Alamo cult survivor Benjamin Risha describes horrifying beatings in documentary: 'I wanted to know what life was like beyond this'," 4 July 2018 There's a thorny issue of logic — as Macbeth, the very skilled Ian Merrill Peakes shows us all of the Thane of Cawdor's soul-shattering guilt and self-doubt, but not the man's ruthless ambition. Chicago Tribune,, "12 shows to see now," 22 June 2018 The networks were ruthless with cancellations, culling even the shows that had promise. Rebecca Farley,, "Did Your Favorite Show Survive The 2018 Cancellation Bloodbath?," 14 May 2018 Michael’s rising influence puts him in the path of Baines’ equally ruthless top aide (Adrian Grenier), as well as his own leftist activist roommate (Thora Birch). Noel Murray,, "Sex-tinged melodrama 'Affairs of State' mirrors real politics," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ruthless.' 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 ruthless

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

30 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for ruthless

The first known use of ruthless was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for ruthless



English Language Learners Definition of ruthless

: having no pity : cruel or merciless


ruth·​less | \ ˈrüth-ləs How to pronounce ruthless (audio) \

Kids Definition of ruthless

: having no pity : cruel

Other Words from ruthless

ruthlessly adverb
ruthlessness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on ruthless

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ruthless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ruthless

Spanish Central: Translation of ruthless

Nglish: Translation of ruthless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ruthless for Arabic Speakers

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a sum of money that is sent as a payment

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