ty·​ran·​ni·​cal | \tə-ˈra-ni-kəl, tī-\
variants: or less commonly tyrannic \ tə-​ˈra-​nik , tī-​ \

Definition of tyrannical 

: being or characteristic of a tyrant or tyranny : despotic tyrannical rule a tyrannical ruler

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Other Words from tyrannical

tyrannically \ tə-​ˈra-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē , tī-​ \ adverb
tyrannicalness \ tə-​ˈra-​ni-​kəl-​nəs , tī-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for tyrannical


absolute, arbitrary, autocratic (also autocratical), czarist (also tsarist), despotic, dictatorial, monocratic, tyrannous



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Examples of tyrannical in a Sentence

Everyone was afraid of their overbearing and tyrannical boss. a tyrannical ruler whose terrible reign was marked by unceasing violence

Recent Examples on the Web

Though he’d been dressed up as a general as a little boy, Mr. Kim hardly seemed to have the résumé to run a tyrannical regime. John Lyons, WSJ, "From ‘Punk Kid’ to 21st Century Tyrant: Kim Jong Un Seizes His Moment," 8 June 2018 Fear is the factor no one wants to address — fear of criminals, fear of terrorists, fear of the government’s turning tyrannical and, perhaps more than anything else, fear of one another. David Joy, New York Times, "Gun Culture Is My Culture. And I Fear for What It Has Become.," 2 Apr. 2018 In the years that followed, Louis became even more tyrannical, doing his best to undermine her authority and impose his own rule over the kingdom. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Joanna of Naples," 3 July 2018 And that came to stand for the principle that searches of homes and private papers without very good reasons were tyrannical and unconstitutional. Lillian Cunningham, Washington Post, "Episode 15 of the Constitutional podcast: ‘Privacy’," 15 Jan. 2018 Should a definition of terrorism exclude those such as pro-democracy activists in a country ruled by an oppressive and tyrannical regime? Stuart Macdonald, Scientific American, "How Tech Companies Are Trying to Disrupt Terrorist Social Media Activity," 26 June 2018 For instance, turning over a water supply to the Peacekeeper faction allows them to clean up the streets, but also turns them into a sort-of tyrannical police force. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Microsoft Xbox's E3 reveals: Halo Infinite, Cyberpunk 2077, Gears 5, and 18 exclusives," 10 June 2018 Like Beethoven, Bernstein was a Goliath of music who identified with David, a man of song, a champion of the common in the face of the monstrous and tyrannical. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "The L.A. Phil's Bernstein and Beethoven peace project," 20 Apr. 2018 Law without liberty is what the Israelites endured under Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule. Joe Lieberman, WSJ, "A Holiday for the Rule of Law," 17 May 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tyrannical

Latin tyrannicus, from Greek tyrannikos, from tyrannos tyrant

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The first known use of tyrannical was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of tyrannical

: using power over people in a way that is cruel and unfair


ty·​ran·​ni·​cal | \tə-ˈra-ni-kəl \

Kids Definition of tyrannical

: relating to or like that of tyranny or a tyrant tyrannical acts

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a private place of worship

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