tyr·​an·​ny | \ ˈtir-ə-nē How to pronounce tyranny (audio) \
plural tyrannies

Definition of tyranny

1 : oppressive power every form of tyranny over the mind of man— Thomas Jefferson especially : oppressive power exerted by government the tyranny of a police state
2a : a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler especially : one characteristic of an ancient Greek city-state
b : the office, authority, and administration of a tyrant
3 : a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force living under the tyranny of the clock— Dixon Wecter
4 : an oppressive, harsh, or unjust act : a tyrannical act workers who had suffered tyrannies

Examples of tyranny in a Sentence

Cars freed Americans, already infamous for their mobility, from the tyranny of train schedules. — Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal, 7 May 2003 Berlin remains a central attraction, and the evanescence of tyranny is a highlight of the visit. — William F. Buckley, Jr., National Review, 27 Sept. 1999 For in creating a cultural orthodoxy designed to combat racism, urban disorder, and a legacy of oppression, we subject ourselves to delusional dogma, the tyranny of conformity, and language that rings of fascist imagery. — Gerald Early, Harper's, January 1997 The refugees were fleeing tyranny. He was dedicated to ending the tyranny of slavery. a nation ruled by tyranny She felt lost in the bureaucratic tyrannies of the university system. The king sought an absolute tyranny over the colonies. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Eragon and Saphira set out to defeat Galbatorix and free the land of Alagaësia from his tyranny. Joe Otterson, Variety, 25 July 2022 To stay in the business, captains and crew must absorb varying degrees of petty tyranny. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 18 July 2022 Before then, the courts, the Justice Department, and historians had long viewed the Second Amendment as protecting only the rights of states to field a militia, as a check on federal tyranny. David Cole, The New York Review of Books, 8 July 2022 China has abused its powers to keep a country that, unlike it, managed the disease without tyranny out of discussions about global health going forward. James K. J. Lee, National Review, 24 May 2022 Here the setting is a speculative American future ravaged by the familiar dystopian features of environmental collapse, technological tyranny and lawlessness. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 17 June 2022 With its warnings against government tyranny and ideological cultists, Costa-Gavras’s classic is newly relevant. Armond White, National Review, 15 June 2022 Under the book’s tutelage, pregnancy became its own occupation and tyranny. Ginia Bellafante, The New York Review of Books, 25 May 2022 While the assembly, now in its 75th year, is usually considered a dry, technocratic event, this year it is being framed by conspiracy theorists as a key moment in the battle between democracy and tyranny. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 22 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tyranny.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of tyranny

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tyranny

Middle English tyrannie, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin tyrannia, from Latin tyrannus tyrant

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Time Traveler for tyranny

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The first known use of tyranny was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near tyranny



tyranny of the majority

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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tyranny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyranny. Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for tyranny


tyr·​an·​ny | \ ˈtir-ə-nē How to pronounce tyranny (audio) \
plural tyrannies

Kids Definition of tyranny

1 : an act or the pattern of harsh, cruel, and unfair control over other people
2 : a government in which all power is in the hands of a single ruler

More from Merriam-Webster on tyranny

Nglish: Translation of tyranny for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tyranny for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tyranny


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