Draconian Meaning: Here’s What it Means and How To Use It

If you’re looking for the meaning of draconian, you’re in the right place. Read on as we uncover the definition of draconian, its origin, and more.

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Have you heard of Draco? No, not the Harry Potter character. This 7th-century law maker made waves with his terrible, horrible, no-good constitution. In fact, his laws were so out of pocket that the word draconian was created to describe something that’s way too harsh.

Learn more about this interesting term below!

What Does Draconian Mean?

According to the dictionary of the English language, the term draconian is an adjective that describes something as very severe or harsh. It comes from Draco, an Athenian law scribe whose laws were extreme. For instance, those who committed theft faced the death penalty. 

While the term draconian was previously capitalized because it derives from a name (Draco), most do not capitalize it today, often spelling the word with a lowercase “d.” 

The Origin of Draconian

Draconian originated from Draco — the name of a 7th-century B.C. Athenian legislator who created an extremely strict code of law — also called Drakon or Drako. Now, this is not to be confused with British wizard and (occasionally) beloved Hogwart’s alumni, Draco Malfoy

Referred to by historians as the Draconian Constitution, Draco’s severe code of laws was intended to clarify the existing laws, but its severity is what made it really memorable. The death penalty was used liberally— even for the most minor offenses — and it was said that the Draconian laws were written in blood, rather than ink. 

That being said, it should be noted that draco is also a Latin word that means snake or dragon. There is often some confusion with the word draconic, which originally meant pertaining to dragons, but was commandeered after Draco came onto the Athens political field. Therefore, draconic carries both meaning and one must use contect to identify the definition. 

On the flip side, dragonian does not come from draco, but instead derives from the word dragon and most definitely pertains to dragons. 

Synonyms of Draconian

To help further your understanding of the word draconian, we’ve put together a list of words with the same or nearly the same meaning. These are called synonyms. Learning the synonyms of words is a great way to broaden your English vocabulary. 

Synonyms of draconian provided by Thesaurus.com:

  • Cruel
  • Drastic
  • Heavy-handed
  • Oppressive
  • Severe
  • Strict
  • Brutal
  • Exorbitant
  • Extreme
  • Rough
  • Very Severe
  • Merciless
  • Savage

Antonyms of Draconian

In addition to synonyms, learning words that have the opposite meaning of the term draconian can also help sharpen your overall sense of language. These are called antonyms. 

Antonyms of draconian, include:

  • Mild
  • Lenient
  • Amenable
  • Calm
  • Easy
  • Easy-going
  • Merciful
  • Accommodating
  • Sympathetic
  • Lax
  • Gentle
  • Liberal
  • Soft
  • Indulgent
  • Loose
  • Compromising

How Is Draconian Used in a Sentence?

Now that you know what draconian means, let’s take a look at how the term can be used in a sentence:

“To control population growth, draconian measures have been implemented by the mayor.”

“If you ask me, this seems a bit draconian.”

“To many, capital punishment is viewed as a draconian practice.”

“Giving someone a life sentence for stealing a piece of fruit is a draconian consequence.”

“If your parents make you do chored for fives hours every day, they are being draconian.”

“To control the spread of the Coronavirus, Hong Kong authorities said that draconian measures would have to be implemented in China.”

“Did you know that the Greek statesman Draco laid down the draconian laws for Athens 621 B.C.E., mandating death as punishment for minor crimes?”

“Sure, that may seem a bit draconian to some, but the data shows these specific measures worked to save lives in the UK. 

“There were some crazy draconian budget cuts today.”

“Sentencing someone to twenty years in prison for littering would be draconian.”

“Many people think Singapore’s chewing gum ban is draconian.”

“The harsh code of laws put in place sound draconian, but I guess there’s a reason for them.”

He went to jail last Monday due to the heavy punishments mandated by draconian law.”

“They criticized the draconian measures being taken to control the spread of the disease.” 

Does Draconian Have Any Other Meanings?

Although draconian is widely known as a strict code of laws made by Athenian lawmaker Draco, the term may also refer to:

  • A Gothic Doom Metal band called Draconian from Säffle, Sweden formed in 1994.
  • A computer game called Draconian written by Mike Hughey and published via “Tom Mix Software” in 1984.
  • An extraterrestrial race known as the Draconians featured in the British science fiction TV series Doctor Who.  
  • A fictional species called Draconian (Dragonlance) in the Dragonlance setting. 
  • A humanoid race known as the Draconian Empire in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series.
  • A school magazine of the Dragon School in Oxford, England called The Draconian. 

In Summary

So, what does draconian mean?

Pertaining to the famous lawgiver of Athens, Draco, who was infamously known for making harsh laws, the term draconian is an adjective meaning “of great severity.” The Draconian laws were most noteworthy for their harshness, with death often prescribed as the punishment for almost all criminal offenses. 

Draco’s code was soon repealed by the archon (magistrate) Solon, who published new laws in 594 B.C.E., retaining only Draco’s homicide statutes. To this day, Solon is considered one of the greatest Athenian lawgivers of all time.  


  1. 16 Synonyms & Antonyms for DRACONIAN | Thesaurus.com
  2. Draconian laws | Definition & Facts | Britannica 
  3. Solon Put Athens on the Road to Democracy | Constitutional Rights Foundation