Definition of cruelty in US English:


nounPlural cruelties

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

    ‘he has treated her with extreme cruelty’
    • ‘Why were children treated with such cruelty, both physical and emotional?’
    • ‘But this temptation is dangerous because history contains too much cruelty at the hands of the pious.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If women resisted sexual advances, they risked physical cruelty and punishment.’
    • ‘The cruelty perpetrated on the family must cease immediately.’
    • ‘A prince may be ruthless when it is prudent, but wanton cruelty is foolish.’
    • ‘Is the response to the extreme cruelty of tyrants the defining moment of the human condition?’
    • ‘They emphasise, instead, the degree of cruelty inflicted by men on women.’
    • ‘We suffered cruelty and abandonment even as we continued to teach the world about a loving God.’
    • ‘What matters most is that prohibitions against human cruelty be hard and binding.’
    • ‘The fact that credible scientists found there was not excess suffering or cruelty involved was ignored.’
    • ‘Officials acting on our behalf committed unspeakable cruelty on a man already wrongly imprisoned for 17 years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 shall not treat either of you with undue cruelty, but neither do I have any intention of pardoning your deeds.’
    • ‘Why did people behave as they did - whether with cruelty or kindness, cravenness or courage?’
    • ‘Mistakes I can forgive, but deliberate intent to harm or random acts of cruelty, I find repulsive.’
    • ‘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. 1.1 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’
      • ‘Harvey is at his best attacking Western intellectuals who supported communism without ever having to suffer its cruelties.’
      • ‘Each of us has the power to make simple changes in our lives so that we don't support these cruelties.’
      • ‘She knows better than anyone the cruelties he is capable of.’
      • ‘Untold cruelties were heaped on such unfortunate souls.’
      • ‘It is the ‘lukewarm attitude of the authorities against the cruelties meted out to elephants’ that has annoyed them.’
      • ‘The games, rituals, teasings, adventures and small cruelties of the children are mirrored by the squabbles and brutalities of the adults.’
      • ‘Then there is the employer whose coldness and real cruelties are something he himself cannot understand.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But because autism has no visible signs its victims are often subjected to unthinking cruelties.’
      • ‘Remember a while back when they did an investigation of an egg farm and showed all the cruelties involved?’
      • ‘And the British middle and upper classes have perfected lethal cruelties for humiliating those who rise from below them.’
      • ‘They could have prosecuted the people responsible for the cruelties I have written about here if they had wanted to.’
      • ‘He witnessed all of slavery's cruelties, the ruthless and the petty.’
      • ‘But today's children are in no mood to suffer that cruelty in silence.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's the more casual cruelties which I found disturbing.’
      • ‘If we are not restrained by conventions, traditions or rules we are all capable of grotesque cruelties.’
      • ‘The most civilised troops will commit excesses and cruelties.’
      • ‘But maybe she would have warned me about the treacheries and cruelties of which some men are capable.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Charges of dangerous driving and child cruelty were withdrawn by the prosecution.’


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