totalitarian

adjective
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

totalitarian

noun

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

George Orwell repeatedly delayed crucial medical care to complete 1984, the book still synonymous with our worst fears of a totalitarian future — published 70 years ago this month. Shoshana Zuboff, Time, "The Surveillance Threat Is Not What Orwell Imagined," 6 June 2019 For much of the twentieth century, Americans on both the left and right believed that the organs of the state were the enemy and that bureaucracy was totalitarian by definition. Fred Turner, Harper's magazine, "Machine Politics," 10 Jan. 2019 The series follows a woman, Offred, who is enslaved as a handmaid in the totalitarian society of Gilead. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Sexy 'maiden costume' yanked from website after backlash from 'Handmaid's Tale' fans," 21 Sep. 2018 In a country just freed from totalitarian rule, with cities blown to rubble by Allied bombs, artists struggled to assess their role. Cate Mcquaid, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Inventur’ looks at German art in the wake of WWII," 15 Mar. 2018 Artists fear that modifications to the decree will be cosmetic and that its totalitarian spirit will prevail, said Abel Gónzalez, the Cuban curator who wrote the protest letter signed by 250 artists. Santiago Pérez, WSJ, "‘Absolute Control’: Cuba Steps Up Artistic Censorship," 25 Dec. 2018 That Google would seek re-entry to a country whose efforts at totalitarian control are increasing while the company ostentatiously separates itself from a U.S. defense program is more than a contradiction. The Editorial Page, WSJ, "Don’t Be Naive, Google," 2 Aug. 2018 After all, totalitarian regimes do not have many ethical limits or transparent media to report on experiments. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Short-Term Superhuman: If We Create Augmented Soldiers, Can We Turn Them Back?," 25 Sep. 2018 Some experts warn that under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt is sliding from authoritarian rule into a totalitarian system where even a smidgen of dissent is intolerable. Declan Walsh, New York Times, "Even With Mo Salah in the World Cup, Egypt Can’t Seem to Catch a Break," 23 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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

Adjective

1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

circa 1934, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for totalitarian

Adjective

Italian totalitario, from totalità totality

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Statistics for totalitarian

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for totalitarian

The first known use of totalitarian was in 1926

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More Definitions for totalitarian

totalitarian

adjective

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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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with totalitarian

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Spanish Central: Translation of totalitarian

Nglish: Translation of totalitarian for Spanish Speakers

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