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

In Black Panther, Erik Killmonger’s (Michael B. Jordan) ruthless skills as an assassin earned him both his nickname and a chest full of scars — tribal marks known as crocodile scarring to mark each one of his kills. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "Michael B. Jordan reveals Killmonger's Black Panther scars were inspired by Denzel Washington in Glory," 7 June 2019 To cultivate his ruthless reputation, Valdez ordered a video be taken of the execution of a man from a rival drug gang who’d been dispatched to assassinate Valdez but was captured by his security team. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Notorious drug kingpin known as ‘La Barbie’ to be sentenced in Atlanta," 10 June 2018 One hopeful sign, largely missed by Westerners, was the fact that North Korea’s ruthless 32-year-old dictator came early to meet the now-72-year-old Trump. Andrew Malcolm,, "An inside look at the Trump-Kim summit," 21 June 2018 Even by this more generous reading, Trump is waxing enthusiastic once again for the governing style of the world’s most ruthless dictators. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump: My People Should ‘Sit Up in Attention’ Like Kim Jong-un’s Staff," 15 June 2018 Critics remember Park as a ruthless dictator who jailed, tortured and executed dissidents. Washington Post, "South Korea’s history of bad presidential endings grows," 6 Apr. 2018 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

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

11 Jun 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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