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 Scott Ross, a professional public speaker, urged demonstrators to think of matters not in terms of pro- or anti-masks and vaccines, but as tyranny versus liberty, the Star-Telegram reported. Hojun Choi, Dallas News, 18 Sep. 2021 Tyranny right now is in the schools and tyranny is in the medical business. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 16 Sep. 2021 In the end, their political project collapsed into tyranny. Joseph Loconte, National Review, 12 Sep. 2021 Far Cry 6 is the ultimate AAA open-world game, at once attempting to be a Very Serious game about colonialism and tyranny and a goofy FPS sandbox extravaganza. Erik Kain, Forbes, 2 Sep. 2021 History has shown that earlier immigrants who fled tyranny have helped renew Americans’ faith in the country’s institutions and founding principles. Arthur Herman, WSJ, 24 Aug. 2021 Moroni and his followers, the affidavit said, executed anyone who rejected that sentiment, or prized tyranny over democracy. Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic, 16 July 2021 But to imply that the resistance fighters who worked under a Nazi tyranny knew in advance what would happen to the Jews and did not act adequately to save them—that is simply groundless. Martin Filler, The New York Review of Books, 13 May 2021 Back when my book club was still going, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the tyranny of book groups. Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune, 23 July 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near tyranny



tyranny of the majority

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Statistics for tyranny

Last Updated

22 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tyranny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyranny. Accessed 24 Sep. 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

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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