op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv How to pronounce oppressive (audio) \

Definition of oppressive

1 : unreasonably burdensome or severe oppressive legislation oppressive taxes the oppressive power of corporations and Wall Street— Jim Hightower
2 : tyrannical an oppressive government
3 : overwhelming or depressing to the spirit or senses an oppressive climate the dusty drabness that was oppressive in its uneventfulness— Geoffrey Moorhouse

Other Words from oppressive

oppressively adverb
oppressiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for oppressive

onerous, burdensome, oppressive, exacting mean imposing hardship. onerous stresses being laborious and heavy especially because distasteful. the onerous task of cleaning up the mess burdensome suggests causing mental as well as physical strain. burdensome responsibilities oppressive implies extreme harshness or severity in what is imposed. the oppressive tyranny of a police state exacting implies rigor or sternness rather than tyranny or injustice in the demands made or in the one demanding. an exacting employer

Examples of oppressive in a Sentence

The country is ruled by an oppressive regime. I think these laws are oppressive. This region suffers from oppressive heat in the summer months. The situation was extremely tense; no one said a word, and the silence was oppressive.
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Recent Examples on the Web In the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2016 survey of public symbols of the Confederacy, most monuments to that oppressive regime were constructed after the South lost the Civil War. Diana Budds, Curbed, 29 Sep. 2021 But the likelihood of an oppressive regime providing concessions appears grim. Tristan Lavalette, Forbes, 14 Sep. 2021 The Rescue Committee provides services for people who are often fleeing violence and corrupt, oppressive regimes, and many come to the U.S. carrying a deep mistrust in government. Kristina Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Sep. 2021 Nakamoto would likely take the tradeoff of the inordinate energy consumption equivalent to 0.22 percent of the world’s population in exchange for the potential liberation of the 53 percent of people controlled by oppressive regimes. Paul H. Jossey, National Review, 27 July 2021 Living under the oppressive regime in Eritrea bled into every aspect of their personal and professional lives. Shoshanaakabas, Longreads, 6 Dec. 2019 Palestinians say the measures are violent and oppressive. Don Riddell, CNN, 2 June 2021 Despite its perks, life in Downing Street can be oppressive. Lara Prendergast, Harper's Magazine, 26 Oct. 2021 How should supporters and allies who benefit from these systems, understand their role in this work, in dismantling oppressive systems and replacing them with equitable ones? Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oppressive.' 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 oppressive

circa 1677, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for oppressive

borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French oppressif, borrowed from Medieval Latin oppressīvus, from Latin oppressus, past participle of opprimere "to press on, stifle, overpower" + -īvus -ive — more at oppress

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Time Traveler for oppressive

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The first known use of oppressive was circa 1677

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oppressive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oppressive. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for oppressive



English Language Learners Definition of oppressive

: very cruel or unfair
: very unpleasant or uncomfortable


op·​pres·​sive | \ ə-ˈpre-siv How to pronounce oppressive (audio) \

Kids Definition of oppressive

1 : cruel or harsh without just cause oppressive laws
2 : very unpleasant or uncomfortable oppressive heat

Other Words from oppressive

oppressively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on oppressive

Nglish: Translation of oppressive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oppressive for Arabic Speakers


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