tyr·an·ny | \ ˈtir-ə-nē \
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

The international community has to ally with people, not despotism, in order to survive; tyrannies will leave one day, and only the people who struggle for freedom, justice and democracy will remain. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "Tawakkol Karman Has Not Given Up On Yemen—And Neither Should You," 27 Mar. 2018 Where exactly is the line between normal government and tyranny? Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Do We Need Assault Weapons in Case We Decide to Kill ‘Tyrannical’ Cops and Soldiers?," 22 Feb. 2018 But there has never been a time in this nation when there hasn’t been a very loud voice from both African-American and whites saying no, slavery is tyranny. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "The Unheralded Pioneers of 19th-Century America Were Free African-American Families," 19 June 2018 Like the opposite of the tyranny so many of our neighbors fled Cuba to escape? Greg Cote, miamiherald, "Let voters decide! Why Beckham group's soccer stadium plan deserves to be on ballot," 9 July 2018 Maxine] Waters’ fellow Democrats — including leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — wrongly believe that tyranny can be combated with polite discourse. Tauhid Chappell, Philly.com, "Supreme Courts decision could affect Pennsylvania politics, two casinos open in Atlantic city | Morning Newsletter," 28 June 2018 Growing tyranny extinguishes hope, and our daily focus turns to survival and emigration. Margarita Herdocia, Time, "Nicaragua Is Heading Down the Same Dark Path as Venezuela," 13 June 2018 The blighted black-and-white past of tyranny and deprivation, on the one hand, or the technicolor future of innovation, freedom, and prosperity. James Freeman, WSJ, "Trump and Kim: The Movies," 14 June 2018 As the world’s most repressive tyranny, the North Korean regime has survived by keeping its people in the dark, dampening their expectations, and instilling a fear of external enemies, especially the United States. The Christian Science Monitor, "A summit that may pop fear in North Korea," 12 June 2018

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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Phrases Related to tyranny

tyranny of the majority

Statistics for tyranny

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for tyranny

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

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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 \
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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