Definition of despot in English:



  • A ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way.

    • ‘I believe aid to sub-Saharan Africa comes mainly from poor Europeans and ends up in the pockets - or Swiss bank accounts - of rich African despots.’
    • ‘And then there's an opportunistic foreign policy that equates despots with democrats and which has baffled the most seasoned of diplomats.’
    • ‘And this makes the world's despots breathe a little easier.’
    • ‘Of course the world shares the responsibility to rid itself of despots - and to avoid creating them in the first place.’
    • ‘Often I distrust figures for the numbers of victims of colonialism because the same sources downplay or ignore the victims of African or Asian despots, or of socialism.’
    • ‘What we don't want is Third World despots harming our economic interests abroad or murdering our citizens at home.’
    • ‘However, I found his list of despots interesting in that there were a couple of notable absences who, by my reckoning, have more deaths on their hands than any of the ones he mentioned.’
    • ‘When people are hungry and afraid and desperate, that doesn't happen, and they put despots in to take care of everything.’
    • ‘They have been consistent in their demands for firm international action to force the despot from power.’
    • ‘Most of the tyrants, despots, and dictators are sincerely convinced that their rule is beneficial for the people, that theirs is government for the people.’
    • ‘For the past two decades he has made something of a name for himself dealing with many of the world's most notorious dictators and despots.’
    • ‘Here's a case where a POW was likely murdered, yet they are the same ones insisting that we leave the despot in power.’
    • ‘Like anyone else fleeing tyranny, many Muslims came to this country to escape the dictates of despots religious or otherwise.’
    • ‘The Party's charter called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and its officials took orders from Soviet despots.’
    • ‘Also, the war generation lived through times when politicians and generals, dictators and despots, managed to squander untold millions of young lives.’
    • ‘I wonder to myself if the delusions of world leaders, tyrants, despots and even elected officials work the same way.’
    • ‘Most threw out despots after years of growing prosperity, learning and interaction with the world through trade, travel and media.’
    • ‘History should have taught us that despots, nuclear powers, rogue states et al do not attack strong adversaries; they prey on the weak.’
    • ‘After all, the 20th century was a time when the world sang the praises of despots and despotism.’
    • ‘Thirty years of rule by benevolent despots who promote economic growth and development - even if it made sense - is simply not an option here.’
    tyrant, dictator, absolute ruler, totalitarian, authoritarian, autocrat, oppressor, autarch, monocrat
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century: from French despote, via medieval Latin from Greek despotēs ‘master, absolute ruler’. Originally (after the Turkish conquest of Constantinople) the term denoted a minor Christian ruler under the Turkish empire. The current sense dates from the late 18th century.