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 Instead, the crisis cements the tyranny of incumbents and catapults newcomers into overnight dominance. Elizabeth M. Renieris, Wired, "Forget the Techlash. The Lawlash Is Long Overdue," 30 Apr. 2020 Body positivity, fat activism, intuitive eating: all of these things are meant, in part, to free us from the tyranny of diet culture. Michelle Weber, Longreads, "The Hate Is Coming From Inside the House," 3 Mar. 2020 Hett’s sensitive study of Germany’s collapse into tyranny implies that Americans today should be vigilant. New York Times, "9 New Books We Recommend This Week," 21 June 2018 Founded in 2003 by a pair of Nordic entrepreneurs, Skype freed tens of millions of people from the tyranny of the phone companies by offering cheap overseas calls. Dina Bass And Nate Lanxon, latimes.com, "Don't Skype me: How Microsoft turned users against its beloved video-chat program," 11 May 2018 The standout association in Sankovitch’s case is Boston, as the prototypical flashpoint of the break between the colonies and the Crown, the peninsular commercial hub that was always closest to both the wealth and the tyranny of England. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘American Rebels’ shows the network behind the Revolution," 15 Apr. 2020 The electoral college would finally end this tyranny of the majority by ensuring that candidates who come in second will occasionally become president. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Case Against the Popular Vote," 20 Sep. 2019 Part of the reason is the tyranny of small markets: a retail chain in a country of 6m people is more constrained than one in a market of, say, 1.3bn. The Economist, "InnovationAsian-tiger governments are steering their economies with a lighter touch," 5 Dec. 2019 The framers of the Constitution hated political parties, feared state tyranny, and tried to design Congress and the presidency as checks on each other to prevent those eventualities. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, "American democracy is dying," 7 Feb. 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

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

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