The Meaning of Orwellian: What It Is and How To Use It

If someone describes something as Orwellian, what does that imply? This article covers the meaning of Orwellian and related terms.

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Does calling something Orwellian mean that it is good or bad? What does the word Orwellian reference? 

This article will provide information about the meaning of the word Orwellian, how to use the word Orwellian in a sentence, the origin of the word Orwellian, and more! Keep reading to learn all there is to know about the word Orwellian.

What Does Orwellian Mean?

According to Cambridge and Your Dictionary, Orwellian is an adjective that refers to a totalitarian government system that attempts to control every aspect of a person’s life. Orwell’s novels like Politics and the English Language involve political doublespeak and doublethink. Orwellian is four syllables: Or-wel-li-an.

The word Orwellian is a reference to Orwell’s novel 1984. If you have not read 1984, this word might seem very confusing, and its definition might not be obvious at first glance. In order to understand this reference, you must be familiar with Orwell’s works.

What Is the Etymology of the Word Orwellian?

The word Orwellian is a reference to George Orwell and the novel 1984, which is set in a futuristic totalitarian government. This word is similar to words like Kafkaesque, Machiavellian Dickensian, and more which are adjectives that stem from a particular author and their worldview. 

To understand what each of these words means, you must first be familiar with the author’s works.

How Can Orwellian Be Used in a Sentence?

You might see the word Orwellian in many types of American English sentences. By studying the example sentences below, you can learn how to use the word Orwellian in everyday language. 

Example #1: An Orwellian Regime

Under the Orwellian regime of totalitarianism, the mantra “war is peace” began to take off.

Example #2: An Orwellian Novel

The Orwellian government in the dystopian novel acted as a euphemism for the current American political administration. 

Example #3: An Orwellian Level of Control

The profiling that was taking place in New York felt like a type of Orwellian state control.

Example #4: An Orwellian Government

The Fascist regime took control of the rest of the country by Orwellian means.

What Are Translations of Orwellian?

Orwellian is a very specific word that references novels Orwell wrote in English. While Orwell’s novels are often part of an American curriculum, this word may not be as common in other languages and countries. 

If you are looking for a way to describe something that is Orwellian to someone who does not speak English, you can use one of the below translations of the word totalitarian from Nice Translator:

  • Norwegian: Totalitær
  • Slovak: totalitný
  • Hungarian: totalitárius
  • Finnish: totalitaarinen
  • Portuguese (Portugal): totalitário
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 極權主義
  • Vietnamese: toàn thân.
  • Spanish: totalitario
  • Dutch: totalitair
  • Romanian: totalitar
  • Turkish: totaliter
  • Portuguese (Brazil): totalitário
  • Amharic: አምፖላዊያን
  • Thai: เผด็จการ
  • Hebrew: טוֹטָלִיטָרִי
  • Indonesian: totaliter
  • Basque: totalitario
  • Malayalam: ഏകാഗത
  • Ukrainian: тоталітарний
  • Korean: 전체주의 자의
  • Hindi: साम्राज्यवादी
  • Bulgarian: тоталитарен
  • Serbian: тоталитаран
  • French: totalitaire
  • Kannada: ನಿರಂಕುಶ
  • Welsh: totalitaraidd
  • German: totalitarisch
  • Telugu: నిరంకుశ
  • Chinese (PRC): 极权主义
  • Estonian: totalitaarne
  • Czech: totalitní
  • Gujarati: સર્વસામાન્ય
  • Filipino: totalitarian
  • Latvian: totalitārs
  • Swedish: totalitär
  • Italian: totalitario
  • Polish: totalitarny
  • Urdu: مجموعی طور پر
  • Bengali: মোটামুটিতম
  • Swahili: Kikatili
  • Russian: тоталитарный
  • Greek: ολοκληρωτικός
  • Arabic: الشمولي
  • Marathi: एकूणच
  • Icelandic: alræðisríkið
  • Lithuanian: totalitarinis
  • Japanese: 全体主義者
  • Tamil: சர்வாதிகார
  • Catalan: totalitària
  • Danish: totalitarisk
  • Croatian: totalitaran

What Are Synonyms of Orwellian?

You could choose to use several words in place of the word Orwellian that describe something totalitarian or dystopian. If someone is not familiar with George Orwell’s work, it can be very useful to know other ways to say Orwellian in case someone is confused. 

Take a look at this list of synonyms from Power Thesaurus and see which ones you might use in a sentence!

  • absolute
  • absolute ruler
  • absolutist
  • absolutistic
  • almighty
  • anti-democratic
  • arbitrary
  • arrogant
  • autarchic
  • autarchical
  • authoritarian
  • authoritative
  • autocrat
  • autocratic
  • autocratical
  • autonomous
  • big brother
  • blackshirt
  • bossy
  • compulsory
  • control freak
  • crack-the-whip
  • despot
  • despotic
  • despots
  • dictator
  • dictatorial
  • disciplinarian
  • dogmatic
  • domineering
  • draconian
  • extreme right-wing
  • extreme right-winger
  • fascist
  • fascists
  • fuehrer
  • fuhrer
  • full-scale
  • harsh
  • high-handed
  • Hitler
  • illiberal
  • imperious
  • magisterial
  • man on horseback
  • martinet
  • mogul
  • monarchic
  • monocrat
  • monocratic
  • monolithic
  • nationalist
  • nazi
  • neo-nazi
  • neofascist
  • oligarch
  • one-party
  • oppressive
  • oppressor
  • overbearing
  • peremptory
  • potentate
  • power-hungry
  • repressive
  • slave driver
  • strict
  • strongman
  • supreme
  • throwing weight around
  • total
  • totalitarian
  • totalistic
  • tyrannic
  • tyrannical
  • tyrannizer
  • tyrannous
  • tyrant
  • unconstrained
  • undemocratic
  • unlimited
  • unmitigated
  • unrestrained

What Are Antonyms of Orwellian?

If you’re looking for a way to say the opposite of Orwellian, look no further than the below list from Power Thesaurus. All of these words describe governments that are the opposite of totalitarian and advocate for democracy. 

  • absolute
  • advocate
  • advocator
  • antiauthoritarian
  • aristocratic
  • autarchic
  • autocratic
  • autonomic
  • autonomous
  • bourgeois
  • brays
  • broadminded
  • bureaucratic
  • chosen
  • civic
  • classless
  • common
  • communal
  • constitutional
  • democracies
  • democracy
  • democrat
  • democratically
  • democratization
  • egalitarian
  • elected
  • elective
  • emancipated
  • enfranchised
  • equal
  • federal
  • free
  • freed
  • friendly
  • general
  • governmental
  • human
  • humane
  • independent
  • individualistic
  • informal
  • just
  • kindhearted
  • liberal
  • libertarian
  • nonaligned
  • orderly
  • ordinary
  • parliamentary
  • participatory
  • popular
  • populist
  • public
  • representative
  • republican
  • self-contained
  • self-determining
  • self-directing
  • self-governed
  • self-governing
  • self-ruled
  • self-ruling
  • separate
  • sovereign
  • sui juris
  • theocratic
  • thoughtful
  • tolerant
  • totalitarian
  • unconstrained
  • unenslaved
  • unregimented
  • unrestrained politically


The definition of Orwellian is a totalitarian state or a state of dystopia. This word is a reference to the Orwellian nightmare referenced in the novel 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four). Many adjectives in English come from different authors’ works, just like how the word Orwellian is a reference to the dystopian, totalitarian government in the novel 1984.


  1. Totalitarian synonyms – 283 Words and Phrases for Totalitarian | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Democratic synonyms – 261 Words and Phrases for Democratic | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Orwellian Meaning | Best 3 Definitions of Orwellian | Your Dictionary 
  4. Orwellian | Cambridge English Dictionary 
  5. Totalitarian | Nice Translator