tyrant

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

But don't expect to see any of the Nazi propaganda that glorifies a tyrant. Fox News, "John Bolton on Maduro 'assassination' attempt, Russian election meddling," 5 Aug. 2018 Sure, the tyrant is also corrupt and cruel; but the alternative is the tiring, immiserating absence of everyday safety and security. Zeynep Tufekci, WIRED, "The Internet Has Made Dupes—and Cynics—of Us All," 24 June 2019 In short, the operatives of one party have, in the past couple of decades, systematically overcome every single barrier erected by the Constitutional Convention against the tyranny of mob or tyrant or foreign potentate. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Crisis of Our Constitution," 10 Jan. 2019 The Syrian tyrant and his spouse Asma al-Assad own an opulent palace estimated to be worth $1 billion in Damascus — less than 10 miles from Eastern Ghouta where innocent people are being massacred by pro-government forces. Fox News, "Syrian dictator Assad, wife living life of luxury while country in tatters," 13 Apr. 2018 Yet in the hands of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, Daly becomes a tyrant on par with Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump while behind the controls of his own video game. Ryan Smith, Chicago Reader, "Arts / Small Screen / The Internet By villainizing nerdy fanboys, Black Mirror's Star Trek parody goes where no show has gone before," 8 Jan. 2018 The golf establishment tends to remember Roberts as a sour figure, a charmless tyrant, and a canny sycophant—the bad cop to the faultless Bobby Jones. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National," 14 June 2019 The incident accords with the popular characterization of Ivan as a bloodthirsty tyrant. Noah Sneider, Harper's magazine, "Slash Fictions," 10 May 2019 Francis’ dedicated right hand who would do anything for the tyrant, even in death. Alexis Jones, Marie Claire, "'House of Cards' Season 6, Surprisingly, Still Needs More Claire," 6 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tyrant

Statistics for tyrant

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tyrant

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tyrant

tyrant

noun

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

tyrant

noun
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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tyrant

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tyrant

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tyrant

Spanish Central: Translation of tyrant

Nglish: Translation of tyrant for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tyrant for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tyrant

Comments on tyrant

What made you want to look up tyrant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!