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 Huawei and its billionaire founder once recoiled at the notion that the company is too entangled with China’s totalitarian regime. Andy Meek, BGR, 29 June 2021 China is a totalitarian regime that is notoriously secretive about everything. Lindsay Beyerstein, The New Republic, 29 June 2021 Relatively little is known about the coronavirus situation in North Korea, a totalitarian state where Kim's regime controls the media and most other aspects of public life. NBC News, 30 June 2021 Rwandans could not—his country’s slide into totalitarian rule under the notoriously thin-skinned Mr. Kagame. Keir Pearson And Tom Zoellner, WSJ, 15 June 2021 After winning fans around the world, South Korean pop culture has entered the final frontier: North Korea, where its growing influence has prompted the leader of the totalitarian state to declare a new culture war to stop it. New York Times, 10 June 2021 Lovable is going to be a stretch for a totalitarian police state that operates concentration camps for religious minorities and gulags for political prisoners. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, 3 June 2021 The big propaganda lies, the replacement of people in pivotal positions in the judiciary — because every totalitarian regime controls the judiciary. Tessa Stuart, Rolling Stone, 19 May 2021 The Hulu show notably became the first streaming drama to win the Emmy in its category way back in 2017, when novelist Margaret Atwood's warnings of a brutal patriarchal totalitarian state felt searingly of the moment. Brian Lowry, CNN, 27 Apr. 2021 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, 27 Dec. 2019 Some of his most popular works were surrealistic fantasies set in grisly worlds run by totalitarians and conformists. Fox News, 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, 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, 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, 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, 12 Mar. 2017 That’s always true of violent radicals and would-be totalitarians. Jonah Goldberg, National Review, 18 Aug. 2017 Not only did Churchill take his nation to war with all these totalitarians,... William Mcgurn, WSJ, 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

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The first known use of totalitarian was in 1926

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Statistics for totalitarian

Last Updated

17 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Totalitarian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of totalitarian

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

More from Merriam-Webster on totalitarian

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for totalitarian

Nglish: Translation of totalitarian for Spanish Speakers


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