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 Sixty-six million years ago, the ground of western North America trembled with the footfalls of a tyrant: Tyrannosaurus rex. National Geographic, "These sleek predatory dinosaurs really are teenage T. rex," 1 Jan. 2020 Sounes’ interviews with many of these Reed discards paint the artist as an insecure tyrant for whom relationships were largely transactional. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Lou Reed reconsidered: Did self-sabotage obscure some of his best music?," 1 Oct. 2019 His reputation as a tough judge — who decided his cases quickly — inspired his critics to denounce him as a judicial tyrant. Dorany Pineda, latimes.com, "Manuel L. Real, judge who helped desegregate Southern California schools, dies at 95," 1 July 2019 In Sudan mass protests led to the ejection of Omar al-Bashir, one of the world’s vilest tyrants. The Economist, "The Economist’s country of the year Which nation improved the most in 2019?," 18 Dec. 2019 Washington, the avid theatergoer, either chose or approved the play with the obvious intention of inspiring his own weary troops to fight the British tyrant and his professional armies currently occupying Philadelphia. Steele Brand, Time, "What Ancient Rome and Greece Can Teach Us About the Modern American Military," 20 Sep. 2019 The Founding Fathers knew the word’s history as a weapon wielded by tyrants to justify the persecution and execution of enemies. James Freeman, WSJ, "Donald Trump and the New York Times," 20 June 2019 And not just any non-royal — the deeply unpopular governor of Galilee who was known for being a tyrant. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Mariamne I," 18 Dec. 2019 According to the Talmud, the book of Jewish law, when the Jews rededicated the Temple of Jerusalem after defeating a tyrant king, one day’s worth of oil provided light for eight nights. BostonGlobe.com, "Light, latkes, and love at a favorite Peabody deli - The Boston Globe," 13 Dec. 2019

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

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tyrant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tyrant?show=0&t=1390067446. Accessed 24 Feb. 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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