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 The contest was just the latest skirmish in more than a decade’s worth of ruthless, all-out, partisan warfare. Los Angeles Times, "Six months from the election, six states are poised to decide Trump-Biden race," 3 May 2020 Ngor had lived through the horrors inflicted by the barbaric Khmer Rouge army, which swept through Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 at the direction of the country’s ruthless dictator, Pol Pot. Kc Baker,, "The Killing Fields Actor Killed in 1996 L.A. Shooting Told World About Brutal Khmer Rouge Regime," 2 Dec. 2019 Polo’s China is a ruthless but efficient dictatorship, a market of staggering promise, a land of great cities and tireless workers. The Economist, "Chaguan China is also an idea, revealing much about Western hopes and fears," 4 Apr. 2020 In fact, the two liberalisms — one offering genuine human freedom, the other entrapping humans in impersonal and often ruthless market mechanisms — were always fundamentally in conflict. Pankaj Mishra, Twin Cities, "Pankaj Mishra: Putin’s wrong, but so are liberals," 11 July 2019 Awaiting them both is Jamie (Ward), the young, hungry and ruthless gang leader whose ambitions leave no place for Dushane and Sully. Alex Ritman, Billboard, "Netflix Unveils Cast of Drake-Executive Produced Revival of U.K. Crime Drama 'Top Boy'," 2 Apr. 2019 The trial also shined a light on the seamier side of one of the nation’s most ruthless and competitive industries. Chris Francescani, ABC News, "Inside the Harvey Weinstein trial: Reporter's notebook," 25 Feb. 2020 Pesci alone was worth the price of admission as his portrayal of mobster Tommy DeSimone is a master class in how to play a ruthless killer. Lisa Respers France, CNN, "Never rat on your friends and always keep watching mob movies," 27 Nov. 2019 The greatest conquerors are not only ruthless in battle; often, they’re also well-read. Gregg Opelka, WSJ, "Putin’s Less-Than-Epic Mueller Retort," 7 May 2019

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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Time Traveler for ruthless

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

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Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ruthless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for ruthless


How to pronounce ruthless (audio)

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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