Tyranny Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Do you know the meaning of tyranny? This article will provide everything you need to know about tyranny, including its definition and much more!

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If your mother refuses to let you stay up late on a school night, is that an act of tyranny? Not quite — this article is here to understand the meaning behind the word tyranny better.

What Does Tyranny Mean?

According to the Collins Dictionary of the English language, tyranny is an oppressive, unjust, or harsh act. This word can also mean a form of government where a tyrant or ruler has vested absolute power.

This is especially true when referencing the oppressive power that can be exerted by any single government, for instance, “the tyranny of a police state.” 

What Is the Origin and History of the Word Tyranny?

Originally, the word tyranny was not necessarily pejorative; in essence, it signified the holder of absolute power in parts of history. It was not until its modern adaptation that it became primarily pejorative. It now often connotes illegitimate possession or an abuse of power. 

The original Greek term, tyrannos (τύραννος) was not necessarily defined as a bad ruler. According to Ancient Greek history, the word described a person who held personal absolute power within the state. 

As time has progressed, how others have viewed tyranny has varied.

Most notably, the Greek philosopher Plato saw tyranny of a certain kind as positive. In contrast, one of the most well-known definitions of tyranny comes from ancient Greece around the times of Aristotle, who held tyranny in a very negative light.

The noun tyranny (middle English tyrannie) was first used in the late 14th century, from the old French tyrannie, the Medieval Latin tyrannia, and the Latin tyrannus.

How to Use the Word Tyranny in Conversation

Take a look at the examples of the proper usage of tyranny below to help you better grasp the definition of this new word and smoothly incorporate it into your vocabulary:

  • According to the modern English usage of the word, the cruel government and its despotic abuse of authority are clear-cut cases of tyranny.
  • The freedom fighters must find some other way of overthrowing imperialism or tyranny.
  • Please tell me, just how many acts of injustice and tyranny has he already carried out?
  • To truly be free, we need to free ourselves from all types of arbitrary power, including but not stopping at majoritarian tyranny.
  • We learned about parental tyranny in class today. 
  • Tommy felt lost in the bureaucratic tyrannies of the university system.
  • The declaration was put in motion before the royals sought an absolute tyranny over the small colonies. 
  • If you ask me, a tyrannical action or proceeding isn’t uncommon from a tyrannical government. 
  • Stacy felt that the only way to counter private and state tyranny was through democracy. 
  • Bob is reading a book called The Tyranny of the Clock by George Woodcock.
  • Joanne was dedicated to ending the tyranny of slavery.
  • Locke’s concept of tyranny influenced several writers who developed the concept of tyranny as a counterpoint to ideas of democracy and human rights.
  • Due to being cruel and unjust, many view him as a tyrant.

What are Synonyms and Antonyms of the Word Tyranny?

While a synonym may have a different tone and connotation, synonyms are words with the same meaning. Synonyms help us in many ways, from expanding our vocabulary to helping us avoid repeating ourselves in written papers and spoken conversations.

Below you will find a list of synonyms of tyranny. Try using these in a sentence today:

  • Suppression
  • Persecution
  • High-Handedness
  • Caesarism
  • Shogunate
  • Fascism
  • Absolute Sovereign
  • Possession
  • Harshness
  • Harsh Discipline
  • Despotic Behaviour
  • Severe Government
  • Tenure
  • Absolutism
  • Authoritarianism
  • Monarchy
  • Autocracy
  • Iron Hand
  • Unjust government
  • Undue Severity
  • One-Man Rule
  • Ill-Treatment
  • Despotic
  • Totalitarianism
  • Absolute Dictator
  • Disposition
  • Dictatorship
  • Czarism
  • Monocracy
  • Subjugation
  • Repression
  • Rigor
  • Cruelty
  • Anguish
  • Pain
  • Cruel Government
  • Repressive Control

What About Antonyms?

What words mean the opposite of tyranny? These words with an opposite or very similar meaning are called antonyms; antonyms can help us paint a clearer picture to our audience.

If you are unsure of what an antonym of tyranny may be or would like to expand your English language vocabulary, we have included a list of antonyms below:

  • Democracy
  • Liberality
  • Ease
  • Joyfulness
  • Mercy
  • Relaxation
  • Blessing
  • Extacy
  • Freedom
  • Democratic State
  • Sympathy
  • Blissfulness
  • Joy
  • Lenience
  • Consideration
  • Charity
  • Happiness
  • Protection
  • Emancipation
  • Liberation
  • Kind-heartedness
  • Lack of Severity
  • Weakness
  • Impotence
  • Incomprehension
  • Subordination
  • Inferiority
  • Bliss


Though the root word may have been held by some in a positive light, by today’s definition, tyranny is a noun that describes either an arbitrarily cruel or repressive regime. 


  1. TYRANNY | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
  2. tyranny | Meaning & Facts | Britannica
  3. Tyranny definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary