Definition of tyrant in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtʌɪr(ə)nt/


1A cruel and oppressive ruler: the tyrant was deposed by popular demonstrations
More example sentences
  • Liberating the oppressed and deposing tyrants are moral choices; appeasing dictators and fomenting hatred of those who would overcome them are immoral choices
  • Using large puppets on stilts, the performers depicted two tyrants oppressing several people.
  • Every tyrant and every oppressor deserve the full wrath of justice.
dictator, despot, autocrat, absolute ruler, authoritarian, oppressor
1.1A person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary way: her father was a tyrant and a bully
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
slave-driver, martinet, hard taskmaster, scourge;
1.2(Especially in ancient Greece) a ruler who seized absolute power without legal right.
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
2A tyrant flycatcher.
Example sentences
  • 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.

  • In English a tyrant has always been a cruel and oppressive ruler, but in ancient Greece, where the word comes from, this was not originally the case. In the 6th and 7th centuries bc a tyrant, or turannos, was simply a man who seized power unlawfully. The tyrannosaurus is the ‘tyrant lizard’. The fossilized remains of this large carnivorous dinosaur were found in North America at the beginning of the 20th century, and the palaeontogist H. F. Osborn gave it the modern Latin name Tyrannosaurus in 1905, taking it from Greek turannos ‘tyrant’ and sauros ‘lizard’. The full name, Tyrannosaurus rex, adds Latin rex ‘king’.

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Line breaks: tyr¦ant

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