Definition of tyranny in US English:



  • 1Cruel and oppressive government or rule.

    ‘people who survive war and escape tyranny’
    ‘the removal of the regime may be the end of a tyranny’
    • ‘Generations of poetry lovers were brought up without any knowledge that Shelley's radical opposition to all tyranny and oppression was central to his art and his life.’
    • ‘Hollywood films depicted the war in Europe in particular as a struggle against fascist tyranny fought by soldiers and sailors imbued with democratic sensibilities.’
    • ‘And when Strauss is mentioned in the press, he is typically described as a great defender of liberal democracy against totalitarian tyranny.’
    • ‘Freedom fighters must have some way of overthrowing tyranny, oppression, or imperialism.’
    • ‘The German law is wider, as it refers to persecution under National Socialism or any other form of despotism or tyranny.’
    • ‘For it came into a world previously marked by despotism, by tyranny, by totalitarian control.’
    • ‘He presumably wants public anarchy funded by socialist tyranny, but that is another issue.’
    • ‘In this fact every other possible cruelty, tyranny, and wanton oppression was by implication included.’
    • ‘We cannot go on with this proxy rule racket, where we back tyranny in the region for the sake of stability.’
    • ‘No one is urged to dwell on the fact that the day's fireworks displays are symbolic of an armed revolution against tyranny and colonialism.’
    • ‘The basic elements of this perspective are a strong liberal commitment to human rights, solidarity with the oppressed, and a firm stand against fascism, totalitarianism and tyranny.’
    • ‘What took over instead was private tyrannies, basically, corporate systems, which play the role of controlling opinion and attitudes, not taking orders from the government, but closely linked to it, of course.’
    • ‘At a minimum it rules out both anarchy and tyranny.’
    • ‘The Second World War has long been presented to the American people as a ‘Good War,’ a war for democracy against fascism and tyranny.’
    • ‘How many acts of oppression, tyranny and injustice have you carried out, O callers to freedom?’
    • ‘It was, and is, a final check on tyranny, government tyranny.’
    • ‘Ownership of small property was the safeguard against both government tyranny and economic oppression.’
    • ‘Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism.’
    • ‘Nowhere was it tried where tyranny, misery, poverty, fear and oppression failed to follow.’
    • ‘As the strongest military power for the foreseeable future, they must play an active role in fighting tyranny, totalitarianism, and terror.’
    • ‘He wanted to free Europe from tyranny, oppression and despotism.’
    despotism, absolutism, absolute power, autocracy, dictatorship, undemocratic rule, reign of terror, totalitarianism, fascism
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A nation under cruel and oppressive government.
      • ‘Instead, they emphasised the fact that it was an oppressive tyranny, and that policy should be shaped at least as much to help and encourage dissidents and opponents of the regime as reaching agreements with it.’
      • ‘The first was the identification of socialism with the Stalinist tyrannies in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.’
      • ‘It is still at that stage and of course is a communist tyranny still.’
      • ‘This regime is a rare example of a tyranny that has been consistently, constantly opposed by the United States.’
      • ‘You can only maintain a Roman Empire as a tyranny, with stupid people.’
      • ‘I want our governments to swiftly enable countries that have been tyrannies to become democracies, and to act in collapsed states to prevent genocide.’
      • ‘Everyone obviously knew that this government was a dreadful tyranny.’
      • ‘If this force is hijacked by the likes of this man and those who vilify trade unionists emerging from the rubble of a tyranny, then there really is no hope at all.’
      • ‘The global consequences of those private tyrannies unchecked by democratic governments are even worse.’
      • ‘In each of these cases of revolution, the pendulum swung back to different points of reaction-either to terrible tyrannies or to parliamentary democracies every bit as feeble as before.’
      • ‘Too, a tyranny can rise more easily by shutting up a thousand people than a million, and that's a reason to stand up and speak out.’
      • ‘The tyrannies in these countries are home grown, and they government has supported them, rightly or wrongly, for decades.’
      • ‘I have been charged by the president with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with.’
      • ‘Although it was clearly a tyranny, the government did not officially object to the political freedoms set forth in the Declaration.’
      • ‘Absolutist tyrannies are far more likely than democracies to breed absolutist tyrannical resistance groups willing to do anything to fight back.’
      • ‘Certainly some tyrannies have arisen in nations where press freedom existed.’
      • ‘That power brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, and set our Nation against the tyrannies of the 20th century.’
      • ‘She believes we are falling for a false kind of moral equivalence between democratic societies and tyrannies.’
      • ‘Almost any country that isn't a tyranny I could cope with - as long as I can live in the biggest city they've got.’
      • ‘A central problem of socialist politics is to prevent the workers (including socialist entrepreneurs) from creating tyrannies of producers.’
    2. 1.2 Cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control.
      figurative ‘the tyranny of the nine-to-five day’
      ‘she resented his rages and his tyranny’
      ‘his father's tyrannies’
      • ‘As teachers were hauled before Judge Fisher they denounced the school authorities for tyranny and deception and said they were willing to go to jail to defend their rights.’
      • ‘Bernadette showed how effective even one voice could be against tyranny and injustice.’
      • ‘Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror.’
      • ‘Britain, France and the other ‘democratic’ imperialist powers were horrified that people had done away with tyranny and rule by bosses and landlords.’
      • ‘A consistent theme in Charles's writings is his belief in human freedom - and his abhorrence for violence and tyranny.’
      • ‘The greater sin is that the city of Argos is now controlled by this tyranny of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra.’
      • ‘Instead of opposing every civic expectation of religious faith, they might join religious activists in wielding faith as a counterweight to corporate tyranny.’
      • ‘Chekhov's childhood was overshadowed by his father's tyranny and religious fanaticism.’
      • ‘The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope is the force of human freedom.’
      • ‘In our conflict with terror and tyranny, we have an unmatched advantage, a power that cannot be resisted, and that is the appeal of freedom to all mankind.’
      • ‘More than that, he seeks to take the debate inside the movement forward by setting out a vision of the alternative to the current tyranny of the big corporations.’
      • ‘I believe that the only way to counter both state and private tyranny is through social democracy.’
      • ‘In order to be able to do this, we needed to be free from all kinds of arbitrary power, including majoritarian tyranny.’
      • ‘First, the secular, often state-capitalist, modernizing projects of the elites in the region became stalled in corruption, tyranny and cultural stagnation.’
      • ‘Corruption and tyranny both hide in irrelevant public verbiage.’
      • ‘Day by day, corruption, tyranny, felony, insecurity and different dangers are attacking human society…’
      • ‘The peculiarities of language provide an excellent source of control for tyranny.’
      • ‘The democratic process that we take part in actually leads to a tyranny of a handful.’
      • ‘Shaking his hand was bad - but inviting private tyrannies into the heart of the Labour Party conference is worse.’
      • ‘The first 45 years since Independence were marked by terror and tyranny.’
    3. 1.3 (especially in ancient Greece) rule by one who has absolute power without legal right.
      • ‘Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s of the inevitability of democracy, but warned against ‘the dangers of a tyranny of the majority’.’
      • ‘It is more than three hundred years since the Glorious Revolution was to have freed us from the tyranny of an absolute monarchy ruling by divine right.’
      • ‘Ancient Athens emerged from tyranny for about 100 years and then self-destructed and the Roman republic was never more than an oligarchy until it too became an empire.’
      • ‘The importance of staging the show is that the problems of inequality, of tyranny and injustice still exist.’
      • ‘The only limit on women's rights is male tyranny and this limit is to be reformed by the laws of nature and reason.’
      • ‘Was this association with tyranny and treachery the cause of Socrates' trial and conviction?’
      • ‘Knox preached on her behalf, and threatened popery and tyranny should Mary enforce her claim.’
      • ‘There is nothing terribly original, much less attractive, in this sort of Nature-based defense of cruelty and tyranny.’
      • ‘The second mechanism by which ethnic pluralism theoretically limits democracy is by tyranny of the majority.’
      • ‘And without freedom, order becomes only another name for tyranny.’
      • ‘Discontent with the laws, and the extortions and petty tyranny of forest officials, ensured that the forest became a major political issue in John's reign.’
      • ‘But his tyranny reflected a reaction to a new environment: one of renewed fear.’
      • ‘General Bate was unwilling to exacerbate local perceptions of military tyranny.’
      • ‘A concurrent majority requires a unanimous consent of all the major interests in a community, which is the only sure way of preventing majority tyranny.’
      • ‘In the absence of a professional police force, the employment of soldiers in public order duties perpetuated their traditional reputation as tools of tyranny.’
      • ‘Finally, soldiers must also be protected from ‘official tyranny,’ or the will of their commanding officers.’
      • ‘An armed people could protect themselves and their neighbors against crime and their liberties against tyranny.’
      • ‘He opposed constraints imposed by such a priori rules as those set forth by Boileau or the tyranny of the ancients and defended the right of genius to create beauty by the idealization of nature.’
      • ‘Besides, dealing with slaves for profit is repugnant to our religion - a religion that came to us for the purpose of wiping out all traces of tyranny.’
      • ‘In fact it was not until May 1689 that the public responded in any way to the perceived tyranny.’


Late Middle English: from Old French tyrannie, from late Latin tyrannia, from Latin turannus (see tyrant).