Definition of tyrant in English:



  • 1A cruel and oppressive ruler.

    ‘the tyrant was deposed by popular demonstrations’
    • ‘According to John, the most expedient way to destroy tyrants was to beseech God's retribution, but he explicitly sanctioned human dissimulation and treachery when they served the cause.’
    • ‘But the human rights camp often downplays the military might that must underpin any successful effort to hold thugs and tyrants accountable for their atrocities.’
    • ‘Let's take a glimpse at how Rome and her history can give us a reaffirmation of our unshaken belief in the ability of Everyman, acting as a free individual, to repair all the damage ever done by history's tyrants and their tax gatherers.’
    • ‘But to outmaneuver tyrants, many need training in the strategies of nonviolent action as well as better information technology.’
    • ‘Using large puppets on stilts, the performers depicted two tyrants oppressing several people.’
    • ‘American security is founded on liberty, and a politically freer planet, a planet freed from the grip of tyrants and the threat of terrorists, is a far safer world.’
    • ‘The domestic life of domestic tyrants is one of the things which it is the most imperative on the law to interfere with.’
    • ‘It appears yet again that our very existence is threatened by the determination of tyrants dissatisfied with anything less than the domination of others.’
    • ‘These tyrants were too small-time to rouse Americans to action and yet simultaneously too annoying or brutal to be ignored by a civilized superpower.’
    • ‘Even the Quarterly Review, no great lover of democracy and popular causes, considered that he was excessive in his appreciation of tyrants.’
    • ‘Celebrating November 9 each year would be a warning to future tyrants that tyranny, whether military or ideological, has no future.’
    • ‘The Utopians helped some of their neighbors get rid of their tyrants, and the neighbors, seeing what great ruling Utopia had, asked the Prince if they could have magistrates rule over their own countries.’
    • ‘This line of argument would seem to lead either to benign Stoic conclusions of mutual indifference, or to finding tyrants and reigns of terror no threat to individual freedom.’
    • ‘Liberating the oppressed and deposing tyrants are moral choices; appeasing dictators and fomenting hatred of those who would overcome them are immoral choices’
    • ‘What will they have left when the art of all of the cultures of the earth has been pillaged by armies, looted by wealthy collectors, destroyed by insane fundamentalists, and prohibited by tyrants?’
    • ‘It was the tyrants ruling the Confederacy with an iron fist who kept her from her mother and me.’
    • ‘Shortsighted tyrants, spineless power-mongers and heartless thugs vie egomaniacally, dangerously, for power.’
    • ‘The countercultural wing of the business world is itself peculiarly attracted to revolutionary tyrants, who have become such common marketing icons that the irony is hardly noticed.’
    • ‘Every tyrant and every oppressor deserve the full wrath of justice.’
    • ‘Lightning fizzed majestically just on cue behind her spiked crown; briefly illuminating the symbolic relic of a world now lost to the seizing hand of bullying big businesses and tactless political tyrants.’
    dictator, despot, autocrat, absolute ruler, authoritarian, oppressor
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    1. 1.1A person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary way.
      ‘her father was a tyrant and a bully’
      • ‘Some are very gentle, polite, and accommodating during the workday to clients and customers, but when they come home they become demanding and unyielding tyrants.’
      • ‘Thus, Anselm's God is not an arbitrary monarch or a tyrant with no accountability and with a bloodthirsty desire for punishment or payment.’
      • ‘Svensson takes on the persona of Strindberg and talks about his life from a childhood intimidated by a tyrant of a father to the time of his relationships with his three wives.’
      • ‘In this age of ‘Political Correctness’, his Newspeak is a warning to us all about what can happen when tyrants gain control of semantics, history and media.’
      • ‘We must help all those who want to face the tyrants as our founding fathers did.’
      • ‘Beneath a perfunctory veil of fiction, Keneally shows us a real-life tyrant exercising a power so absolute and unfeeling that it appears amoral, rather than immoral.’
      • ‘In the aging actress films, transitory tyrants return with a vengeance and refuse to pass away.’
      • ‘Old people want to be loved and respected, otherwise they turn into tyrants.’
      • ‘Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters.’
      • ‘After all, she and her husband were not tyrants.’
      • ‘It enables people to grow their own food and develop local economies not beholden to either home-grown tyrants or multinational corporations.’
      • ‘They are tyrants and ideologues whose sole concern is imposing their Nietzschean will to power upon the weak, the uprightly bourgeois, the decently intentioned.’
      • ‘He may have been controlled by a tyrant, but now he isn't.’
      • ‘And if I believed that Christian faith and morality required meek submission to bullies and tyrants, I might have the same reaction.’
      • ‘On the one hand, you don't want to reward tyrants with power; on the other, you'd like to see the trains run on time.’
      • ‘When we use the term, we're paying homage to generations of men south of the border who refused to give up the right to protect themselves and their families because petty tyrants attempted to make them helpless.’
      • ‘There's this tyrant of a father - whom we've changed to a tyrant of a mother - who's saying marry this guy or die.’
      • ‘But girls who look like they have self-esteem can also be tyrants, like what you saw in that video, and it could be false self-esteem.’
      • ‘Of course, I learnt how to cope with dangerous tyrants during my spell in military intelligence in the Falklands.’
      • ‘Imitation appears to be a hallmark of tyrants in their exercise of power, so the absence of solidarity among Africa's journalists and Africa's peoples has created a dangerous vacuum.’
      slave-driver, martinet, hard taskmaster, scourge
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    2. 1.2(especially in ancient Greece) a ruler who seized power without legal right.
      • ‘This is the beginning of Olympia I, which is written for a tyrant in Sicily by the name of Heron.’
      • ‘They thought the Republic would revive of itself when the tyrant was removed; that the Senate would pick up the reigns and lead once again.’
      • ‘Since Innocent eventually won that rivalry and was recognized as the legitimate pope, Roger came to be painted as a usurper and a tyrant.’
      • ‘Ever since the war between Ignus and Iudicium ended, one enigmatic question continued to eat at many people's minds: where did these two terrifying tyrants amass such numbers for their armies?’
      • ‘For a time he was also the brother-in-law of the Athenian tyrant, Peisistratus, who seized power three times before finally establishing a stable and apparently benevolent dictatorship.’
      • ‘This would be a conventional political charge against a tyrant (he usurps rights).’
      • ‘By appointing queens, the mercantile oligarchs were attempting to capture the legitimacy the tyrant's power had generated, but to limit the use of that power.’
      • ‘His father was overthrown by tyrants, so he was sent here to develop his powers then go back to throw down some furious anger at his oppressors.’
      • ‘Until 495 B.C. the city of Miletus was the greatest of the Greek cities when, after an unsuccessful revolt against the Persian tyrants who controlled it, the city was destroyed.’
      • ‘To him the popular leaders were simply deceivers, brigands and tyrants, their followers the victims of self-serving malice and moral depravity.’
      • ‘The question that divided them is still a live one: Does a tyrant, who seizes power by force, who is obeyed from fear, have a right to rule?’
      • ‘He now offered full co-operation to Bonaparte, and began by organizing an ‘armed neutrality’ of Baltic powers to deny the tyrant of the seas access to the ports of northern Europe.’
      • ‘According to one episode, Jamshid, the Iranian equivalent of King Solomon, after reigning for 700 years was overthrown by the tyrant Zahhak.’
      • ‘Sparta freed many cities, including Athens, from their tyrants, fought bravely for Greek freedom from the Persians, and then claimed to be freeing Greece from Athens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War.’
      • ‘All over the country, and in fact all over the world, people are waking up to the horrors being perpetrated by the tyrants of power and authority.’
      • ‘There would never be a better chance to eliminate the tyrant.’
      • ‘In Italy the employment of mercenary companies became endemic, as the tyrants like the Visconti needed to employ these mercenary armies to prop themselves up - and that in a way was the cradle of the Renaissance.’
      • ‘Procopius, writing more than a century later records that ‘The Romans were no longer able to recover Britain, which from that time on continued to be ruled by tyrants [i.e. usurpers]’.’
      • ‘Terracottas from the temple site at Sant'Omobono may belong to the reign of Superbus; in any event they confirm that the later Roman kings were flamboyant rulers who modelled themselves on contemporary Greek tyrants.’
      • ‘Instead of battling power-hungry tyrants in ancient China, Maxine sees herself pitted against institutionalized racism in contemporary America.’
  • 2A tyrant flycatcher.

    • ‘With 429 or so tyrannids, there are more species of Tyrant Flycatchers than in any other family of birds in the world, yet the Eastern Kingbird has earned the title of tyrant of tyrants.’
    • ‘An example from his later work - though an unsettling one - is The tender sadness of tyrants as they dance, for shakuhachi and bass flute.’
    • ‘They, together with tyrants, also tend to be below general average educational achievements, while authoritarians and democrats exhibit the best performance in school.’


Middle English: from Old French, via Latin from Greek turannos.