tyr·​an·​ny ˈtir-ə-nē How to pronounce tyranny (audio)
plural tyrannies
: 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
: a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler
especially : one characteristic of an ancient Greek city-state
: the office, authority, and administration of a tyrant
: a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force
living under the tyranny of the clock Dixon Wecter
: an oppressive, harsh, or unjust act : a tyrannical act
workers who had suffered tyrannies

Example Sentences

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 But, no less than Picasso, Mondrian counsels against capitulation to tyranny. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 26 Sep. 2022 Conservatism was a worldview intimately bound up with opposition to tyranny. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 16 Sep. 2022 In this vibrant staging, with adorable child performers as the von Trapp children, the musical’s themes of faith, community and resistance to tyranny, which often seem smothered in sentimentality, felt real and timeless. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2022 In more recent years, hot pink became a direct response to the tyranny of earth tones, beige, and millennial pink. Katy Kelleher, refinery29.com, 14 July 2022 No longer will human capital cultivation be subject to the tyranny of established organizations. John Kao, Forbes, 8 June 2022 Over a century later, Russians are once again fleeing tyranny at home for safety in their former colony. Natalia Antelava, CNN, 26 Oct. 2022 What Jafar says is nothing more than a call for basic human rights and a rejection of the tyranny imposed on the society due to ignorance. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Oct. 2022 Unhealed political traumatization blurs that line between fact and fantasy; democracy and tyranny. Rich Logis, The New Republic, 13 Oct. 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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near tyranny

Cite this Entry

“Tyranny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyranny. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



tyr·​an·​ny ˈtir-ə-nē How to pronounce tyranny (audio)
plural tyrannies
: a government in which all power is in the hands of a single ruler
: harsh, cruel, and severe government or conduct
: a tyrannical act

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