Definition of cruelty in US English:



  • 1Callous indifference to or pleasure in causing pain and suffering.

    ‘he has treated her with extreme cruelty’
    • ‘The casual, unthinking cruelty of children is brilliantly evoked here.’
    • ‘There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty.’
    • ‘I felt like a Roman emperor, looking down on my subject wondering whether to show mercy or cruelty.’
    • ‘They emphasise, instead, the degree of cruelty inflicted by men on women.’
    • ‘The cruelty perpetrated on the family must cease immediately.’
    • ‘The fact that credible scientists found there was not excess suffering or cruelty involved was ignored.’
    • ‘I shall not treat either of you with undue cruelty, but neither do I have any intention of pardoning your deeds.’
    • ‘Is the response to the extreme cruelty of tyrants the defining moment of the human condition?’
    • ‘Officials acting on our behalf committed unspeakable cruelty on a man already wrongly imprisoned for 17 years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I hope the resulting media coverage will help to foster a greater awareness of the cruelty involved.’
    • ‘Maybe it was because of casual human cruelty.’
    • ‘What matters most is that prohibitions against human cruelty be hard and binding.’
    • ‘Why did people behave as they did - whether with cruelty or kindness, cravenness or courage?’
    • ‘If women resisted sexual advances, they risked physical cruelty and punishment.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Why were children treated with such cruelty, both physical and emotional?’
    • ‘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.’
    brutality, savagery, savageness, inhumanity, barbarism, barbarousness, brutishness, bloodthirstiness, murderousness, viciousness, ferocity, ferociousness, fierceness
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    1. 1.1 Behavior that causes pain or suffering to a person or animal.
      ‘we can't stand cruelty to animals’
      ‘the cruelties of forced assimilation and genocide’
      • ‘There are no visual signs and so sufferers are often simply dismissed as naughty and can face unthinking cruelties from people who simply fail to realise they are dealing with a disabled person.’
      • ‘Surely one of life's greatest tragedies is that man can always come up with explanations for the unspeakable cruelties people inflict on each other.’
      • ‘Its graphic descriptions of life on a Maryland plantation, and of the cruelties he witnessed as a child and later endured himself, made the book an instant classic.’
      • ‘They could have prosecuted the people responsible for the cruelties I have written about here if they had wanted to.’
      • ‘She knows better than anyone the cruelties he is capable of.’
      • ‘But because autism has no visible signs its victims are often subjected to unthinking cruelties.’
      • ‘If we are not restrained by conventions, traditions or rules we are all capable of grotesque cruelties.’
      • ‘The games, rituals, teasings, adventures and small cruelties of the children are mirrored by the squabbles and brutalities of the adults.’
      • ‘But maybe she would have warned me about the treacheries and cruelties of which some men are capable.’
      • ‘He witnessed all of slavery's cruelties, the ruthless and the petty.’
      • ‘Untold cruelties were heaped on such unfortunate souls.’
      • ‘Remember a while back when they did an investigation of an egg farm and showed all the cruelties involved?’
      • ‘Each of us has the power to make simple changes in our lives so that we don't support these cruelties.’
      • ‘It is the ‘lukewarm attitude of the authorities against the cruelties meted out to elephants’ that has annoyed them.’
      • ‘But today's children are in no mood to suffer that cruelty in silence.’
      • ‘It's the more casual cruelties which I found disturbing.’
      • ‘Harvey is at his best attacking Western intellectuals who supported communism without ever having to suffer its cruelties.’
      • ‘The most civilised troops will commit excesses and cruelties.’
      • ‘Then there is the employer whose coldness and real cruelties are something he himself cannot understand.’
      • ‘And the British middle and upper classes have perfected lethal cruelties for humiliating those who rise from below them.’
    2. 1.2Law Behavior which causes physical or mental harm to another, especially a spouse, whether intentionally or not.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Charges of dangerous driving and child cruelty were withdrawn by the prosecution.’
      • ‘He pleaded not guilty to cruelty and claimed he had entrusted the puppies to a man called Phil.’
      • ‘The jury was told that he had been convicted of grievous bodily harm and child cruelty against a girl in Essex in April 1998.’


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