Definition of cruelty in English:



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

    ‘he has treated her with extreme cruelty’
    • ‘Maybe it was because of casual human cruelty.’
    • ‘The cruelty perpetrated on the family must cease immediately.’
    • ‘There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty.’
    • ‘Why did people behave as they did - whether with cruelty or kindness, cravenness or courage?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘What matters most is that prohibitions against human cruelty be hard and binding.’
    • ‘I hope the resulting media coverage will help to foster a greater awareness of the cruelty involved.’
    • ‘A prince may be ruthless when it is prudent, but wanton cruelty is foolish.’
    • ‘I shall not treat either of you with undue cruelty, but neither do I have any intention of pardoning your deeds.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I felt like a Roman emperor, looking down on my subject wondering whether to show mercy or cruelty.’
    • ‘But this temptation is dangerous because history contains too much cruelty at the hands of the pious.’
    • ‘The casual, unthinking cruelty of children is brilliantly evoked here.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If women resisted sexual advances, they risked physical cruelty and punishment.’
    • ‘Mistakes I can forgive, but deliberate intent to harm or random acts of cruelty, I find repulsive.’
    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’
      • ‘It's the more casual cruelties which I found disturbing.’
      • ‘She knows better than anyone the cruelties he is capable of.’
      • ‘Remember a while back when they did an investigation of an egg farm and showed all the cruelties involved?’
      • ‘Harvey is at his best attacking Western intellectuals who supported communism without ever having to suffer its cruelties.’
      • ‘If we are not restrained by conventions, traditions or rules we are all capable of grotesque cruelties.’
      • ‘It is the ‘lukewarm attitude of the authorities against the cruelties meted out to elephants’ that has annoyed them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The most civilised troops will commit excesses and cruelties.’
      • ‘He witnessed all of slavery's cruelties, the ruthless and the petty.’
      • ‘Then there is the employer whose coldness and real cruelties are something he himself cannot understand.’
      • ‘They could have prosecuted the people responsible for the cruelties I have written about here if they had wanted to.’
      • ‘But today's children are in no mood to suffer that cruelty in silence.’
      • ‘Untold cruelties were heaped on such unfortunate souls.’
      • ‘Each of us has the power to make simple changes in our lives so that we don't support these cruelties.’
      • ‘And the British middle and upper classes have perfected lethal cruelties for humiliating those who rise from below them.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But because autism has no visible signs its victims are often subjected to unthinking cruelties.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2Law Behavior which causes physical or mental harm to another, especially a spouse, whether intentionally or not.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her evidence was led in support of three so called specimen counts of rape, six of indecent assault and one of cruelty.’
      • ‘Charges of dangerous driving and child cruelty were withdrawn by the prosecution.’
      • ‘In 1948, Wyman sued for divorce, charging extreme mental cruelty.’


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