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.

    • ‘Like anyone else fleeing tyranny, many Muslims came to this country to escape the dictates of despots religious or otherwise.’
    • ‘Also, the war generation lived through times when politicians and generals, dictators and despots, managed to squander untold millions of young lives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When people are hungry and afraid and desperate, that doesn't happen, and they put despots in to take care of everything.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most threw out despots after years of growing prosperity, learning and interaction with the world through trade, travel and media.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I wonder to myself if the delusions of world leaders, tyrants, despots and even elected officials work the same way.’
    • ‘After all, the 20th century was a time when the world sang the praises of despots and despotism.’
    • ‘Of course the world shares the responsibility to rid itself of despots - and to avoid creating them in the first place.’
    • ‘And this makes the world's despots breathe a little easier.’
    • ‘They have been consistent in their demands for firm international action to force the despot from power.’
    • ‘Here's a case where a POW was likely murdered, yet they are the same ones insisting that we leave the despot in power.’
    • ‘History should have taught us that despots, nuclear powers, rogue states et al do not attack strong adversaries; they prey on the weak.’
    • ‘Thirty years of rule by benevolent despots who promote economic growth and development - even if it made sense - is simply not an option here.’
    • ‘What we don't want is Third World despots harming our economic interests abroad or murdering our citizens at home.’
    • ‘The Party's charter called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and its officials took orders from Soviet despots.’
    • ‘And then there's an opportunistic foreign policy that equates despots with democrats and which has baffled the most seasoned of diplomats.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.