Definition of despotism in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈdɛspətɪz(ə)m/


[mass noun]
1The exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way: the ideology of enlightened despotism
More example sentences
  • The fact is that every Christian government that preceded them thought that Christianity implied tyranny, despotism, and the oppression of non-Christians.
  • He wanted to free Europe from tyranny, oppression and despotism.
  • 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
1.1 [count noun] A country or political system where the ruler holds absolute power: some nations are democracies, others are despotisms
More example sentences
  • Machiavelli relied heavily on the dichotomy between republican and princely government, Montesquieu on a trichotomy of republics, monarchies, and despotisms.
  • 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.
  • Of course, history has been replete with despotisms and petty dictatorships.


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

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.