Definition of despotism in English:



  • 1The exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way.

    ‘the King's arbitrary despotism’
    • ‘The corruption and despotism of his regime are not new phenomena.’
    • ‘The best way to do this is to actively encourage its sponsoring regimes towards democracy and away from the tyranny and despotism that breeds it.’
    • ‘This places limits on governments and reduces the likelihood of tyranny and despotism.’
    • ‘That's not the rule of law; it's the arbitrary despotism of kings.’
    • ‘Today we define despotism (along with dictatorship and totalitarianism) as a form of government.’
    • ‘Cultural sovereigns in their own right, Ovid and Dante, despite official exile from their native home, had made their poetic stand against tyranny and despotism.’
    • ‘Along with magnanimous Turks and philosophical Persians, the Chinese as exemplars of the world's greatest enlightened despotism played an important role in transforming Europe's self-image.’
    • ‘This kind of freedom may coincide with the cruellest despotism and with the subjugation of the overwhelming majority of the people.’
    • ‘They smack of totalitarian despotism, and their quaint claim for absolute certainty seems anachronistic in this postmodern age of relativism and deconstruction.’
    • ‘There is still a recognizable contrast with the European experience on the continent, with absolutism and enlightened despotism.’
    • ‘From exile during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period nobles and clergy who had defended their privileges against enlightened despotism before 1789 now saw things in a different light.’
    • ‘In a word, no distinction was now drawn between despotism, tyranny, and absolute monarchy.’
    • ‘The more we nourish widespread ambition, the less we have to fear the overweening power of mild despotism.’
    • ‘He wanted to free Europe from tyranny, oppression and despotism.’
    • ‘The primary cause of all this danger is the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, poverty, and economic stagnation.’
    • ‘Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism.’
    • ‘The fact is that every Christian government that preceded them thought that Christianity implied tyranny, despotism, and the oppression of non-Christians.’
    • ‘The German law is wider, as it refers to persecution under National Socialism or any other form of despotism or tyranny.’
    • ‘America was born in a revolution against Western imperialism, born as a haven of freedom against the tyrannies and despotism, the wars and intrigues of the old world.’
    • ‘I do admire in that work your condemnation of arbitrary power and despotism as destructive of freedom.’
    tyranny, dictatorship, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, absolute rule, absolutism
    oppression, repression, suppression
    autocracy, monocracy, autarchy
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A country or political system where the ruler holds absolute power.
      • ‘While the existence of dissident voices should never be ignored, the French monarchy was nevertheless viewed by the majority of its subjects not as a despotism, but as a government tempered by the laws.’
      • ‘Russia was a despotism and there's a difference; Britain wasn't, and hadn't been for a long, long time and was never going to be again, and finally that made all the difference.’
      • ‘This was because refugees and terrorists were widely regarded as freedom fighters, against Continental despotisms.’
      • ‘Of course, history has been replete with despotisms and petty dictatorships.’
      • ‘Inside the UN, a bloody despotism is every inch the equal of a liberal democracy.’
      • ‘Not only was their empire a military despotism, it was also peculiarly distrustful of any form of self-help, much less self-government, on the part of its subjects.’
      • ‘Hardly - like DPF, I think that it was a murderous totalitarian despotism whose passing should not be mourned for an instant.’
      • ‘As the poet Walt Whitman once wrote, ‘A democracy may rule as outrageously as a despotism.’’
      • ‘He also charged that ‘the men in power are attempting to establish a despotism in this country, more cruel and more oppressive than ever existed before.’’
      • ‘Though the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties were bitter foes, there was consolation in that both were members of a confederacy of despotisms.’
      • ‘Stalin's paranoid nature turned the regime into a dangerous despotism.’
      • ‘Machiavelli relied heavily on the dichotomy between republican and princely government, Montesquieu on a trichotomy of republics, monarchies, and despotisms.’
      • ‘Warmongering liberals have effectively been as great a bane to human liberty at home and abroad as any foreign dictator, and a considerable number of modern despotisms have emerged from the wreckage of misguided liberal zeal.’
      • ‘In other words, the United States, to satisfy the State Department and certain of our so-called allies in the region, must be complicit in the creation of a new despotism.’
      • ‘In the modern world it is only despotisms which have recourse to the firing squad or the noose.’
      • ‘Russia closely resembled the ancient Oriental despotisms such as those in Mesopotamia and pharaonic Egypt, where the rulers were the exclusive owners of all that lay within their domain.’
      • ‘The Temple elite did what it took to see that a political charge was made against him and Rome, alive to politics, not theology, did what despotisms do best.’
      • ‘As in so much else, the French revolutionary regime was the precursor of the centralized, totalitarian, managerial, pseudo-democratic despotisms that now reign over the West.’
      • ‘Unless appropriate checks and balances are constructed, we'll inevitably end up with a malign despotism.’
      • ‘They typically sealed their victory by unseating kings, although often creating a new despotism.’


Early 18th century: from French despotisme, from despote (see despot).