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[kroo-uh l] /ˈkru əl/
adjective, crueler, cruelest.
willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others.
enjoying the pain or distress of others:
the cruel spectators of the gladiatorial contests.
causing or marked by great pain or distress:
a cruel remark; a cruel affliction.
rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.
Origin of cruel
1175-1225; Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin crūdēlis, equivalent to crūd(us) (see crude) + -ēlis adj. suffix
Related forms
cruelly, adverb
cruelness, noun
uncruel, adjective
uncruelly, adverb
uncruelness, noun
1. bloodthirsty, ferocious, merciless, relentless. Cruel, pitiless, ruthless, brutal, savage imply readiness to cause pain to others. Cruel implies willingness to cause pain, and indifference to suffering: a cruel stepfather. Pitiless adds the idea of refusal to show compassion: pitiless to captives. Ruthless implies cruelty and unscrupulousness, letting nothing stand in one's way: ruthless greed. Brutal implies cruelty that takes the form of physical violence: a brutal master. Savage suggests fierceness and brutality: savage battles.
1. kind. 2. sympathetic, compassionate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cruelest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He enjoyed a certain fame among his companions in misery for the haughtiness with which he faced the cruelest guards.

    The Enemies of Women Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • The wickedest, cruelest man in the bunch––and the best shot.

    Whispering Smith Frank H. Spearman
  • Of all industrial abuses of the past the cruelest has been the crushing of the life of young children by hard and prolonged labor.

  • She depended on them to spread the news in the cruelest way.

  • One of the cruelest wars ever waged, was the insane crusade against the bison of the plains.

    A Summer's Outing Carter H. Harrison
British Dictionary definitions for cruelest


causing or inflicting pain without pity: a cruel teacher
causing pain or suffering: a cruel accident
Derived Forms
cruelly, adverb
cruelness, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French, from Latin crūdēlis, from crūdus raw, bloody
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cruelest



early 13c., from Old French cruel (12c.), earlier crudel, from Latin crudelis "rude, unfeeling; cruel, hard-hearted," related to crudus "rough, raw, bloody" (see crude). Related: Cruelly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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