Definition of atrocity in US English:


nounPlural atrocities

  • 1An extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury.

    ‘war atrocities’
    ‘scenes of hardship and atrocity’
    • ‘They are forced to commit atrocities against their own families and communities.’
    • ‘Have people forgotten who started the war and committed countless atrocities during it?’
    • ‘The effect of an atrocity of such a magnitude on the government and public should never be underestimated.’
    • ‘The region has been the scene of some of the worst atrocities in the five-year-old civil war in Congo.’
    • ‘It was a brave new world recovering from the atrocities and bleakness of war.’
    • ‘Rights advocates say that the number of atrocities against women in the country is increasing.’
    • ‘Empathy is the missing psychological link in people who commit hate crimes and other atrocities.’
    • ‘Some of them also said they had been forced to witness or commit atrocities, including rape and murder.’
    • ‘Their endurance in battle soon became as legendary as their involvement in a number of war crimes and atrocities.’
    • ‘And so they became a marginal but prophetic group willing to testify with their lives to the atrocity of war and coercion.’
    • ‘Much of the fighting and many atrocities against civilians took place in Bosnia.’
    • ‘The scale of the atrocity may actually have speeded up the collective urge to absorb the shock and get back to business.’
    • ‘Terrorists responsible for atrocities, mass murderers and child killers will serve their entire lives in jail.’
    • ‘In the old days there was no way of taking photographs of war atrocities and popping them on the net for all to see.’
    • ‘Given that war itself is an atrocity the scene you described in your article still makes a citizen sick with shame and indignation.’
    • ‘The entire war is an atrocity, a war crime, launched on the basis of lies.’
    • ‘The father of one of the Bali bombing victims spoke yesterday of his anger at the amount of publicity being given to those arrested for the atrocity.’
    • ‘Those responsible for atrocities against the Acehnese should be brought to trial.’
    • ‘Meat eaters think this is a joke but it's not funny to people who believe it's an atrocity to eat murdered animals.’
    • ‘The year since the invasion has been marked by further war crimes and atrocities.’
    act of barbarity, act of brutality, act of savagery, act of wickedness, cruelty, abomination, enormity, outrage, horror, monstrosity, obscenity, iniquity, violation, crime, transgression, wrong, wrongdoing, offence, injury, affront, scandal, injustice, abuse
    barbarity, barbarism, brutality, savagery, inhumanity, cruelty, wickedness, badness, baseness, evil, iniquity, horror, heinousness, villainy, lawlessness, crime, transgression, wrong, wrongdoing, injustice, abuse
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1humorous A highly unpleasant or distasteful object.
      ‘the house was a split-level atrocity’
      • ‘While some of my colleagues are asking kids to change out of shirts that expose their midriffs and skirts that fall ten inches or so above the knee, I usually find myself blissfully unaware of the tasteless atrocities that I am supposedly bombarded with on a daily basis.’
      • ‘I remember thinking that if I were blindfolded and forced to taste and identify this carbonated atrocity, I would have guessed it was antifreeze, aftershave or pond water.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘cruelty’): from French atrocité or Latin atrocitas, from atrox, atroc- ‘cruel’.