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 Freed from the tyranny of headshots, Spellbreak lets players focus on more meta aspects of fighting. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "Spellbreak Conjures Up a Unique Spin on Battle Royale," 16 Sep. 2020 But the meritocratic pressures also exert a kind of tyranny on the winners. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, "A Political Philosopher on Why Democrats Should Think Differently About Merit," 14 Sep. 2020 The public attitude toward law-enforcement in general is that of a liberty-loving people in passive revolt against tyranny. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's Magazine, "Who Is the Tyrant?," 18 Aug. 2020 Here were men and women whose names were followed by PhD and MD, saying that face mask recommendations were the first step toward a new age of tyranny and that the coronavirus was no more dangerous than the common cold. Peter Jamison, Washington Post, "A 26-year-old film editor’s descent into coronavirus vaccine conspiracy theories," 31 Aug. 2020 An advance copy of Trump’s final R.N.C. speech reveals that Trump will paint an ominous picture of a nation living under the tyranny of uninterrupted postal delivery and athletic events. Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker, "Trump Warns That Biden Presidency Would Mean Regular Mail Service and Sports," 27 Aug. 2020 Though some urged Washington to become their king, Washington refused, out of fear of tyranny. courant.com, "My favorite American patriot," 20 Aug. 2020 Presidents from Truman to Reagan to Bush 41 prevailed in the Cold War, which was about freedom versus tyranny. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, "Historian Jon Meacham to speak at final night of Democratic convention: Report," 20 Aug. 2020 David rejects the tyranny of rationality and the idea that there are no exceptions: to him everything has a singular essential nature. Christian Lorentzen, Harper's Magazine, "Coetzee’s Radical Masterpiece," 18 Aug. 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

21 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tyranny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyranny. Accessed 21 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for tyranny


How to pronounce tyranny (audio)

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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