Synonym Chooser

How is the word cruel different from other adjectives like it?

Some common synonyms of cruel are barbarous, ferocious, fierce, and savage. While all these words mean "showing fury or malignity in looks or actions," cruel implies indifference to suffering and even positive pleasure in inflicting it.

the cruel jokes of schoolboys

When is barbarous a more appropriate choice than cruel?

The synonyms barbarous and cruel are sometimes interchangeable, but barbarous implies a ferocity or mercilessness regarded as unworthy of civilized people.

barbarous treatment of prisoners

When is it sensible to use ferocious instead of cruel?

While the synonyms ferocious and cruel are close in meaning, ferocious implies extreme fierceness and unrestrained violence and brutality.

a ferocious dog

When could fierce be used to replace cruel?

The meanings of fierce and cruel largely overlap; however, fierce applies to humans and animals that inspire terror because of their wild and menacing aspect or fury in attack.

fierce warriors

In what contexts can savage take the place of cruel?

Although the words savage and cruel have much in common, savage implies the absence of inhibitions restraining civilized people filled with rage, lust, or other violent passion.

a savage criminal

Thesaurus Entries Near cruel

Cite this Entry

“Cruel.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

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