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 The stoners and the suits both live under the tyranny of federal illegality, bad public policy, high taxes, absurd levels of regulation, and a stubborn social stigma that empowers NIMBYs to ban cannabis at the local level. Andrew Deangelo, Forbes, "The Stoners And The Suits: Building Bridges Or Endless Conflict?," 28 Apr. 2021 Even living in California lockdown would be preferable to living under the Covid tyranny of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "Cruise Ships in the CDC Dock," 15 Apr. 2021 What the poll actually reveals is the tyranny of the contemporary. Washington Post, "Who is the greatest fictional detective? A new book reminds us why it’s Poirot.," 14 Apr. 2021 But certain programs could actually run longer, if not for the tyranny of subscription scheduling. New York Times, "Notes Toward Reinventing the American Orchestra," 12 Feb. 2021 An idea that challenged the regime’s tyranny and Islamic State’s book burners. Carolyn Wells, Longreads, "The Syrian Rebels Who Found Refuge in Books," 22 Mar. 2021 And they must be treated in this way for the rest of the narrative to cohere and for the binary between liberty and tyranny to take shape. Kanishk Tharoor, The New Republic, "Pankaj Mishra’s Reckoning With Liberalism’s Bloody Past," 22 Feb. 2021 On the Trump-apologist right, the suspension was denounced as Orwellian tyranny, deep-state collusion, or worse. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "The Importance, and Incoherence, of Twitter’s Trump Ban," 15 Jan. 2021 Germany’s national day of mourning remembers all victims of war and tyranny, and Charles’s speech will be about remembrance as well as the friendship between the two countries. Victoria Murphy, Town & Country, "Prince Charles to Speak of Acting Together for a "Better Tomorrow" in Key Remembrance Speech in Germany," 14 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for tyranny

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for tyranny

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tyranny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyranny. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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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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