ty·​rant | \ ˈtī-rənt How to pronounce tyrant (audio) \

Definition of tyrant

1a : an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution
b : a usurper of sovereignty
2a : a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally
b : one resembling an oppressive ruler in the harsh use of authority or power

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What makes someone a tyrant?

A glance at the comments posted in response to our definition of tyrant illustrate two things: the word has a fairly wide spectrum of meaning, and many political rulers of late (regardless of party and action) are thought by some to merit this description. The word is often now found used as a generalized term of reproach ("he was a real tyrant in the kitchen"), and also with more specific denotation ("the tyrant suspended the country’s judicial code"). The definitions we give for words match, as best as possible, the manner in which these words are used. We cannot offer judgment on whether or not any specific individual is or is not a tyrant.

Examples of tyrant in a Sentence

Our boss is a real tyrant. the people universally feared the tyrant, who was notorious for his frequent use of torture
Recent Examples on the Web Her Jackson is a tyrant with cold, inquisitive eyes, her skin dotted with age spots, her tummy thickened with padding. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Elisabeth Moss Channels a Strange and Brilliant Shirley Jackson in the Crackling Shirley," 3 June 2020 Other folks, like the NextDoor tyrants who assume the very worst about each one of us on an afternoon walk, need to take a deep, masked breath. Beth Spotswood, SFChronicle.com, "Pandemic’s ‘new normal’ makes us weary, but we’re in it together," 27 May 2020 Criminals, tyrants, and terrorists don’t do background checks. Bob Egelko, SFChronicle.com, "Appeals panel says California can enforce ammo background check," 14 May 2020 Residents bristled at the early shutdown, calling the mayor a tyrant and sending him about 2,000 mostly critical messages. Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why coronavirus looks different to black America," 1 May 2020 The galactic tyrant transported both Catra (AJ Michalka) and Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara) on board his flagship. Christian Holub, EW.com, "She-Ra princesses prepare for the last battle in final season trailer," 30 Apr. 2020 It’s time to stop local tyrants from massive government reach and subjugating us. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "The politics of protest: Organizers of anti-shutdown rallies in North Texas say efforts are homegrown," 24 Apr. 2020 The soldiers running Sudan signed a power-sharing deal with the opposition, whose protests led to the fall of President Omar al-Bashir, a tyrant, in April. The Economist, "Politics this week," 18 July 2019 One of the new liberties Song clearly prizes is the ability to depict nudity, whether painting a pudgy tyrant in the raw or a shapely woman wrapped only in a filmy North Korean flag. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: Artist explores how castoff materials can be a venue to enlightenment," 14 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tyrant.' 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 tyrant

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for tyrant

Middle English tyraunt, from Anglo-French tyran, tyrant, from Latin tyrannus, from Greek tyrannos

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Time Traveler for tyrant

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for tyrant

Last Updated

18 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tyrant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyrant. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for tyrant


How to pronounce tyrant (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tyrant

: a ruler who has complete power over a country and who is cruel and unfair
: someone who uses power in a cruel and unfair way


ty·​rant | \ ˈtī-rənt How to pronounce tyrant (audio) \

Kids Definition of tyrant

1 : a ruler who has no legal limits on his or her power
2 : a ruler who exercises total power harshly and cruelly
3 : a person who uses authority or power harshly My boss is a real tyrant.

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Comments on tyrant

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