to·​tal·​i·​tar·​i·​an | \ (ˌ)tō-ˌta-lə-ˈter-ē-ən How to pronounce totalitarian (audio) \

Definition of totalitarian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy : authoritarian, dictatorial especially : despotic
b : of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship and terrorism)
2a : advocating or characteristic of totalitarianism
b : completely regulated by the state especially as an aid to national mobilization in an emergency
c : exercising autocratic powers



Definition of totalitarian (Entry 2 of 2)

: an advocate or practitioner of totalitarianism

Examples of totalitarian in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The totalitarian regime of Fahrenheit 451 banned books but encouraged watching TV. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "Trump Is Building a Dystopia in Real Time," 24 Apr. 2020 Yet the likes of Andrei Sakharov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn surely did help pull down the creaking edifice of the totalitarian state by remorselessly exposing its falsehoods and speaking truth to power. The Economist, "Keeping the flame alight A chronicle of heroism in the Soviet Union," 8 Apr. 2020 The dual occupation came days after the two totalitarian states signed a pact with a secret protocol to carve up Poland and the Baltic states., "Polish PM accuses Putin of lying about outbreak of WWII - The Boston Globe," 31 Dec. 2019 The turning point of the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ is when Evey discovers a letter written on toilet paper by someone oppressed under the totalitarian regime. Henry Alford, The New Yorker, "What Would Freud Make of the Toilet-Paper Panic?," 23 Mar. 2020 One’s faith in Cuba’s metrics depends on how much one trusts citizens to provide a totalitarian regime with inconvenient information and Cuban officials to report inconvenient results. Brendan Bell, National Review, "Bernie Sanders Is Wrong about Cuba’s Literacy Program," 6 Mar. 2020 Over the past century, this effort at control has even been extended to the human mind, first in totalitarian regimes through the technological dissemination of propaganda, but more recently in the governing of liberal democracies. Damon Linker, TheWeek, "Coronavirus' lessons in limits," 13 Mar. 2020 First and foremost, China, Iran, and Russia all suffer from a lack of legitimacy, as is always the case with totalitarian regimes. Shay Khatiri, TheWeek, "America is doing so much better than you think," 2 Feb. 2020 The Soviet Union’s role in the military defeat of the Nazis is complicated by the willingness of Soviet citizens to help Nazis persecute Jews in the war between the two totalitarian regimes. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "‘We have not learned the lessons': Holocaust survivor warns genocide persists around the world," 24 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And there’s another reason why totalitarians capable of horrific human rights violations are a real hosting nightmare. Sarah Todd, Quartz, "Why dictators make terrible conversationalists," 27 Dec. 2019 Some of his most popular works were surrealistic fantasies set in grisly worlds run by totalitarians and conformists. Fox News, "Science fiction author Harlan Ellison dead at age 84," 28 June 2018 Some of Ellison's most popular works were surrealistic fantasies set in grisly worlds run by totalitarians and conformists. Robert Jablon, USA TODAY, "'Star Trek' scriptwriter Harlan Ellison, master of sci-fi literature, dies at 84," 28 June 2018 Surveying the literary output of leaders from Lenin to Kim Jong-il, Kalder asks why so many totalitarians dabble in literature. Colin Dickey, The New Republic, "Why Dictators Write," 22 Mar. 2018 No reasonable purpose is served by using a term that lumps together totalitarians, autocrats, conservatives and democratic nationalists, as though these are all varieties of a single dark worldview. Yoram Hazony, WSJ, "There’s No Such Thing as an ‘Illiberal’," 4 Aug. 2017 Alas, the illiberal totalitarians who demanded that the American Conservative Union reverse course denied us a chance to find out. Osita Nwanevu, Slate Magazine, "There’s nothing outrageous about stamping out bigoted speech.," 12 Mar. 2017 That’s always true of violent radicals and would-be totalitarians. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, "The Alt-Right Is Bad — And So Is ‘Antifa’," 18 Aug. 2017 Not only did Churchill take his nation to war with all these totalitarians,... William Mcgurn, WSJ, "‘America First’ Takes On a New Meaning," 23 Jan. 2017

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


1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1934, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for totalitarian


Italian totalitario, from totalità totality

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Time Traveler for totalitarian

Time Traveler

The first known use of totalitarian was in 1926

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Statistics for totalitarian

Last Updated

3 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Totalitarian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for totalitarian


How to pronounce totalitarian (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of totalitarian

: controlling the people of a country in a very strict way with complete power that cannot be opposed

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for totalitarian

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with totalitarian

Spanish Central: Translation of totalitarian

Nglish: Translation of totalitarian for Spanish Speakers

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