ty·rant | \ˈtī-rənt \

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

By practicing exhaustive personal diplomacy, Bush organized a financial and military coalition that forced Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein’s withdrawal from Kuwait. Elise Jordan, Time, "I'm a Republican. What on Earth Is Wrong With My Party?," 15 Jan. 2018 To see slaves, women, and Jewish people exact revenge on their tyrants? Meagan Fredette, refinery29.com, "Quentin Tarantino Cast Every White Person He Could Find In His New Movie," 23 June 2018 There is a princess (Daisy, played by Samantha Mathis), who’s held prisoner by a villainous tyrant (King Koopa, played by Dennis Hopper) in a world unlike Mario’s own. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Dazzling Failures of Super Mario Bros.," 31 May 2018 Some thought him more or less a tyrant, and questioned whether El Sistema had done any good, since weak players did not advance and Venezuela was falling even faster to pieces. The Economist, "José Abreu died on March 24th," 28 Mar. 2018 In short, crisply readable chapters, Greenblatt limns a bagful of Shakespeare’s tyrants. Alex Beam, BostonGlobe.com, "Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘Tyrant’ joins this year’s crop of hate reads," 2 May 2018 Yet even when necessity required close ties with tyrants, presidents since Ronald Reagan made support for human rights part of their foreign policy calculus. Trudy Rubin, Philly.com, "U.S. withdrawal from U.N. Human Rights Council reflects Trump hypocrisy | Trudy Rubin," 20 June 2018 Rodman, who was in Singapore for the talks between a dictator-tyrant and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, has the special connection of being an acquaintance of both men. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "10 Reasons Dennis Rodman’s Summit Interview Was the Most Bizarre Must-Watch Television Moment in 2018," 12 June 2018 No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators. NBC News, "Read Trump's address to the nation on the U.S. attack on Syria," 14 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for tyrant

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for tyrant

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

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More Definitions for tyrant



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 \

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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a generally accepted meaning of a word

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