strong·man | \ ˈstrȯŋ-ˌman \

Definition of strongman 

: one who leads or controls by force of will and character or by military methods

Examples of strongman in a Sentence

a Latin-American strongman who basically treated his nation's coffers as his personal bank account

Recent Examples on the Web

It was discovered in October 1817 by the strongman of the early antiquarians, Italian explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni. Jim Berkeley, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Egypt," 5 Oct. 2016 The fallout contributed to the election in 2014 of Narendra Modi, India’s strongman leader, who pushed an agenda of Hindu nationalism, clean government and development. The Economist, "The tycoons who are powering India’s rise," 5 July 2018 His two predecessors—Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned in February, and Meles Zenawi, who ruled as a strongman from 1995 to 2012—had both said similar things. The Economist, "Ethiopia and Eritrea put an end to two decades of conflict," 10 July 2018 Some see him as a caudillo in the making: a strongman who will rule through the politics of personality and demolish institutions instead of reforming them. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "AMLO Isn’t Mexico’s Trump – Nor Is He Trump’s Natural Enemy," 5 July 2018 Let the ruins, perched high above Madrid, serve as a warning to a nation riven by enmity and to any citizen who might wish for a dictator like Franco, a murderous strongman who would try to wring immortality from a shrine full of the dead. Matías Costa, Smithsonian, "The Battle Over the Memory of the Spanish Civil War," 28 June 2018 Once again, the army would topple another strongman, this time replacing Namphy with Avril. Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "Henri Namphy, one-time coup leader and Haiti president, dies in Dominican Republic," 27 June 2018 In the initial stages of the fighting, Sunni rebels with close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries dealt Assad a string of battlefield defeats, and there was a real prospect of the strongman resigning or being forced from power. Neri Zilber, Vox, "Israel and Iran’s escalating shadow war in Syria, explained," 25 Apr. 2018 The best outcome from this meeting that will undermine liberal democracies and encourage strongmen the world over would be maintenance of the status quo and a public relations coup for Putin. Nina Jankowicz, The New Republic, "Available in Helsinki: the Fate of Eastern Europe," 13 July 2018

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

1859, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about strongman

Statistics for strongman

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for strongman

The first known use of strongman was in 1859

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for strongman



English Language Learners Definition of strongman

: a politician or leader who uses violence or threats

: a man who performs in a circus and who is very strong

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on strongman

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


a magnificent or impressive array

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!