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 However, to find the walking speed of the T. rex, the researchers of the new study focused on the vertical movement of the tyrant lizard king's tail. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Apr. 2021 Democrats have rarely objected as long as the tyrant-in-chief is progressive-approved. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, 9 May 2021 Every Egyptian president has been called a pharaoh, considered an idol or a tyrant. Ursula Lindsey, The New York Review of Books, 27 Apr. 2021 In 1989, The Dallas Morning News devoted a High Profile cover story to Chapman, noting that peers described him variously as a genius, tyrant and hero. Michael Granberry, Dallas News, 26 Apr. 2021 Castiglione di Sicilia is said to have been founded on the ashes of prehistoric settlements in 403 BC by refugees from the seaside settlement of Naxos, near modern Taormina, when it was conquered by a tyrant. Silvia Marchetti, CNN, 25 Apr. 2021 The former is ruled by the peace-loving Highfather, while the latter is ruled by Darkseid, an intergalactic tyrant determined to find the Anti-Life Equation and conquer the universe by removing free will. Christian Holub, EW.com, 1 Apr. 2021 The deeper problem is that these movies perpetuate dubious biographical clichés about Welles, characterizing him variously as a tyrant, a charlatan, or a drunk. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2021 Having been forced to act as a body double for one of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Latif Yahia gives an insider’s look at the life of the Iraqi tyrant. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More about tyrant

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

26 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tyrant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyrant. Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.

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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 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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