Definition of cruelty in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Cruel behaviour or attitudes.

    ‘he has treated her with extreme cruelty’
    ‘we can't stand cruelty to animals’
    [count noun] ‘the cruelties of forced assimilation and genocide’
    • ‘I shall not treat either of you with undue cruelty, but neither do I have any intention of pardoning your deeds.’
    • ‘The whole point of this storyline is that he has reduced her to a gibbering wreck through emotional and verbal cruelty without any physical violence.’
    • ‘Maybe it was because of casual human cruelty.’
    • ‘If women resisted sexual advances, they risked physical cruelty and punishment.’
    • ‘What matters most is that prohibitions against human cruelty be hard and binding.’
    • ‘A prince may be ruthless when it is prudent, but wanton cruelty is foolish.’
    • ‘Mistakes I can forgive, but deliberate intent to harm or random acts of cruelty, I find repulsive.’
    • ‘Is the response to the extreme cruelty of tyrants the defining moment of the human condition?’
    • ‘The fact that credible scientists found there was not excess suffering or cruelty involved was ignored.’
    • ‘There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty.’
    • ‘Why did people behave as they did - whether with cruelty or kindness, cravenness or courage?’
    • ‘Officials acting on our behalf committed unspeakable cruelty on a man already wrongly imprisoned for 17 years.’
    • ‘The cruelty perpetrated on the family must cease immediately.’
    • ‘I hope the resulting media coverage will help to foster a greater awareness of the cruelty involved.’
    • ‘We suffered cruelty and abandonment even as we continued to teach the world about a loving God.’
    • ‘But this temptation is dangerous because history contains too much cruelty at the hands of the pious.’
    • ‘The casual, unthinking cruelty of children is brilliantly evoked here.’
    • ‘They emphasise, instead, the degree of cruelty inflicted by men on women.’
    • ‘Why were children treated with such cruelty, both physical and emotional?’
    • ‘I felt like a Roman emperor, looking down on my subject wondering whether to show mercy or cruelty.’
    brutality, savagery, savageness, inhumanity, barbarism, barbarousness, brutishness, bloodthirstiness, murderousness, viciousness, ferocity, ferociousness, fierceness
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Law Behaviour which causes physical or mental harm to another, especially a spouse, whether intentionally or not.
      ‘she divorced my stepfather for persistent cruelty’
      • ‘The jury was told that he had been convicted of grievous bodily harm and child cruelty against a girl in Essex in April 1998.’
      • ‘Charges of dangerous driving and child cruelty were withdrawn by the prosecution.’
      • ‘Her evidence was led in support of three so called specimen counts of rape, six of indecent assault and one of cruelty.’
      • ‘In 1948, Wyman sued for divorce, charging extreme mental cruelty.’
      • ‘He pleaded not guilty to cruelty and claimed he had entrusted the puppies to a man called Phil.’


Middle English: from Old French crualte, based on Latin crudelitas, from crudelis (see cruel).