noun tyr·an·ny \ ˈtir-ə-nē \
|Updated on: 11 Aug 2018

Definition of tyranny

plural tyrannies
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
2 a : 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

  1. Cars freed Americans, already infamous for their mobility, from the tyranny of train schedules. —Cynthia CrossenWall Street Journal7 May 2003
  2. Berlin remains a central attraction, and the evanescence of tyranny is a highlight of the visit. —William F. Buckley, Jr.National Review27 Sept. 1999
  3. 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 EarlyHarper'sJanuary 1997
  4. The refugees were fleeing tyranny.

  5. He was dedicated to ending the tyranny of slavery.

  6. a nation ruled by tyranny

  7. She felt lost in the bureaucratic tyrannies of the university system.

  8. The king sought an absolute tyranny over the colonies.

Recent Examples of tyranny from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of tyranny

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

TYRANNY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of tyranny for English Language Learners

  • : 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

TYRANNY Defined for Kids


noun tyr·an·ny \ ˈtir-ə-nē \

Definition of tyranny for Students

plural tyrannies
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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