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

In the book, Seierstad introduced Rais as a tyrant lording over his sullen brood. Christopher De Bellaigue, The New York Review of Books, "The Seduction of Jihad," 4 Apr. 2019 Only tyrants and dictators feel the need to silence critics. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Israel was wrong to ban Omar, Tlaib," 30 Aug. 2019 My father was still a tyrant, still terrified me, but my friends were kind, encouraging me to go back to school. Chris Rush, Harper's magazine, "Love and Acid," 19 Aug. 2019 Laura Plyler is Lady Macbeth, the ruthlessly ambitious woman whose relentless goading unleashes the murderous tyrant in her husband. sun-sentinel.com, "Review: A dark and earnest ‘Macbeth’ from New City Players," 16 Aug. 2019 The tiny tyrant furiously took after her, set to attack. Scottie Andrew And Saeed Ahmed, CNN, "A blackbird hopped on the back of a bald eagle, but it turns out that it wasn't a joyride," 9 July 2019 In his future, McAulty’s robots are benevolent monarchs, bloodthirsty tyrants, and unknowable gods who hold all the cards against humans. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "In The Robots of Gotham, AI has taken over the world — and become exactly like us," 7 July 2018 Among those tyrants is Grigori Rasputin (played by Rhys Ifans). Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Lawrence of Arabia takes on Rasputin in first trailer for The King’s Man," 15 July 2019 The entire rebellion plot feels like a lackluster retread of season 1’s efforts to overthrow a different tyrant ruling Krypton. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "In season 2, Krypton keeps viewers guessing," 12 June 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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Statistics for tyrant

Last Updated

7 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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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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

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