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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 cruelly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • That brought rebellion into Dan, for now the neck yoke was cruelly twisting his head.

    Over Prairie Trails Frederick Philip Grove
  • They might only be cruelly holding out hope to one of the doomed.

    The Armourer's Prentices Charlotte M. Yonge
  • You cruelly and unjustly disowned, disinherited, and even delegalized, and degraded your son before he was born!

    The Lost Lady of Lone E.D.E.N. Southworth
  • Theodora was cruelly alive to the helplessness of her situation.

    Gomez Arias Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso
  • Daisy did not know him, and in her delirium she said things to him and of him which hurt him cruelly.

    Miss McDonald Mary J. Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for cruelly


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 cruelly



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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