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

Definition of ruthless

: having no pity : merciless, cruel a ruthless tyrant

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Other Words from ruthless

ruthlessly adverb
ruthlessness noun

If someone can be ruthless, can one also be 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 Now, the military has brought its ruthless war tactics from the jungles and borderlands to the towns and cities. Helen Regan, CNN, "'I thought I would die.' Myanmar protesters describe torture they suffered in detention," 27 Apr. 2021 In a town populated by guileless, soft-hearted idealists, Terry is refreshingly complex—ruthless in advancing his own material interests but also sincerely committed to righting the historical wrongs perpetrated against his people. Judy Berman, Time, "Can the Ambitious, Uneven Rutherford Falls Do for American History What The Good Place Did for Philosophy?," 22 Apr. 2021 This wanton abuse of discretion is a ruthless political vendetta. Robin Goist, cleveland, "Summit County GOP fundraising to pay for lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s ‘ruthless political vendetta’," 22 Mar. 2021 For decades, the junta kept a stranglehold on the country, tamping down democracy movements with ruthless violence and dominating the nation’s communications systems. Doug Bock Clark, The New Yorker, "In Myanmar, A Digital-Savvy Nation Poses a New Challenge for the Military," 2 Mar. 2021 In nearly every instance, the least likely suspect, anyone with an unassailable alibi or the person with no apparent motive would turn out be the ruthless killer. Washington Post, "Who is the greatest fictional detective? A new book reminds us why it’s Poirot.," 14 Apr. 2021 National Football League teams have been especially ruthless in their negotiations with cities and states and have demanded hefty taxpayer subsidies for new stadiums. Benjamin Means, The Conversation, "MLB’s decision to drop Atlanta highlights the economic power companies can wield over lawmakers – when they choose to," 12 Apr. 2021 As portrayed in the show, Sobhraj was skilled at appealing to lost souls and people who needed to feel seen, and had plenty of charm to spare — but was ruthless in his hatred of Western culture and capitalism. Jean Bentley,, "What Happened To The Women In Charles Sobhraj’s Orbit," 5 Apr. 2021 The process of securing a time slot has been ruthless, fraught and confusing, particularly for those without computer skills or internet connection. Alex Mann,, "Missteps marked Maryland’s COVID vaccine rollout, experts say: ‘We have to be willing to try different things’," 1 Apr. 2021

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

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Last Updated

4 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ruthless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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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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Comments on ruthless

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