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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Democrats must employ a calculated strategy to beat Donald Trump, or else hand the nation four more years of tyranny. Chicago Tribune Staff, chicagotribune.com, "Daywatch: Jussie Smollett videos released, a look inside a marijuana dispensary and other things to know to start your day," 25 June 2019 The great fear when the Constitution was adopted was tyranny of the majority. Marilynne Robinson, Harper's magazine, "Letters," 10 Jan. 2019 Nobody should have to point out the stupidity of such a position: Inner trauma and tyranny are not passed through generations via melanin. Sahil Handa, National Review, "Why I’m No Longer Talking to Anyone about Anything," 13 June 2019 Yet as a fine journalist, then a peerless novelist of the horrors of war and tyranny, his destiny was to inhabit times and places that ground up human beings by the million. The Economist, "Vasily Grossman, the greatest bard of the second world war," 7 June 2019 Some of us are anxiously awaiting the photonics revolution, where photons will band together to overthrow the tyranny of electrons. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Wireless nanowire lasers absorb infrared, emit blue light," 1 June 2019 In short, the operatives of one party have, in the past couple of decades, systematically overcome every single barrier erected by the Constitutional Convention against the tyranny of mob or tyrant or foreign potentate. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Crisis of Our Constitution," 10 Jan. 2019 Some were vehemently disappointed over her villainous turn, some remained fiercely loyal and excused her acts of violence, others believed her storyline hinted at tyranny all along, and legions blamed writers for the seemingly unfounded plot twist. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emilia Clarke Was "Flabbergasted" by Daenerys Targaryen's Ending in Game of Thrones Season 8," 21 May 2019 Plus, if Dany doesn't get her tendencies toward tyranny in check (RIP Randyll and Dickon Tarly), there will be far greater issues to address than the lack of a welcoming committee at Winterfell. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Game of Thrones Rivalry Between Sansa & Daenerys Is Gendered and Regressive," 16 Apr. 2019

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.

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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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Statistics for tyranny

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for tyranny

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

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More Definitions for tyranny



English Language Learners Definition of tyranny

: cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others
: a government in which all power belongs to one person : the rule or authority of a tyrant


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

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